Ten signs that you’re not leveraging the trade show experience

Most market research and competitive insights professionals attend industry specific trade shows to gather information about competitors, the market, and customers. Learning how to be a “trade show professional” will help you maximize the return on your attendance.

We see two kinds of people at trade shows. The first is what we call the “trade show tourist” who is there for the experience and to be entertained. The second we call the “trade show professional” who attends the show to gather intelligence. For the professional, the trade show is a unique data market insights opportunity and one they plan for well in advance.

Here’s how to tell if you’re a tourist or a professional:

  1. How did you select which show to attend? The professional picks shows based on the information collection potential and which competitors will be present. They look to maximize the return and select those events where more information will be exchanged and the competitors will be more accessible. The tourist picks a show based on factors such as location, ease of travel, and fit to personal schedule.
  2. Did you determine what competitors will exhibit at the show and what information you want to get from them? The professional will carefully review the exhibitor list to identify which competitors will be at the show and where their booths will be. Using this information, the professional will map out routes on the exhibit floor to observe the competitors without arousing suspicion. The tourist will find how which competitors are on the floor by walking around the floor at the show.
  3. What kind of preparation did you do before the show? The professional will spend a significant amount of time researching which shows to attend and identifying specific information to collect from the entire event, including the exhibits, networking, and sessions. They will have developed specific collection templates and perhaps even scheduled meetings for the event. The tourist might review the agenda but arrives with only a vague sense of what the show will cover.
  4. What level of engagement do you have with the people who will use the information you collect at that trade show? The professional has formal meeting with key stakeholders in advance of the trade show to identify information collection topics and to get stakeholder perspective on what is of greatest value. The tourist arrives at the trade show with only a vague idea of what is needed based on their own impressions.
  5. Have you built a Trade Show Planner? The planner is a single source document that outlines what each team member will do and when it will be done. The professional will build out a planner weeks in advance and clearly communicate to each team member their responsibilities for the show.
  6. Do you have a collection plan? All trade show attendees will walk the show floor. The tourist will wander from booth to booth in a more or less random pattern stopping where something catches the eye. The professional will have mapped out a route to specific booths and will have already identified what they will collect at the booth.
  7. Did you research the presentations before selecting which to attend? The sessions at a trade can be of varied value which requires a careful selection to attend the right sessions. The professional will line up sessions based on priority and register to attend those sessions well in advance. The tourist will rely on chance and last minute decision.
  8. Did you set up meetings with information sources and partners at the show? The professional will arrange meetings with a variety of information source, contacting them well in advance to verify that they will be at the event and scheduling meetings around their availability. The tourist comes to the event hoping to have a few short ad-hoc conversations with people who seem interesting.
  9. Are you building in second choices for sessions? Sometimes a session is not what you thought it would be or is oversold. When that happens, the professional has one or more back-up sessions to attend and will quickly move to the other session. The tourist may sit through a session that has little value or may rely on serendipity to get to another session.
  10. How will you share the information and insights gained from the show? The professional will prepare a summary report on the show to distribute to stakeholders in the week after the show and present a more comprehensive report with material collected at the show within a few seeks of the show. The tourist will keep material and insights to themselves and share only anecdotal points with stakeholders when convenient.

Trade shows present one of the best competitive intelligence collection opportunities in the open source environment. By following the actions of the trade show professional, you can return to work with actionable insights and not just a few random pleasurable memories of walking around the show floor.

– Erik Glitman, CEO