5 Ways to Optimize Trade Show Attendance

As trade show season officially kicks off, many leaders in the fleet and transportation technology industries are marking their calendars and selecting their favorite and most beneficial shows to attend. In 2024, there will be more than 500 shows in 110 cities focusing on topics for commercial vehicles. However, in a tight economy where it’s more important than ever to be prudent with budgets, smart fleets are focusing on the shows with the biggest ROIs and creating strategic plans to make every trip count.

Once you’ve prioritized and registered for a show, there are several best practices that can help you prepare to get the most out of your next industry trade show attendance.

How Should You Prepare as an Industry Trade Show Attendee?

1. Do your homework and make your plan.

Depending on the size of the show you’ll be attending, you may have many choices for sessions to attend and booths to visit. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, and the “grocery store” approach of browsing-as-you-go doesn’t always make the most of your limited time. Planning your show route may take “brutal prioritization” as you review the session schedule, keynote speeches, and the map of the show floor. 

Ask yourself what is a must-see and what is nice-to-see. Keep your fleet's goals, strengths, and challenges in mind as you make your plan. Remember to download the show’s mobile app if available, and connect with the social media accounts to ensure you remain updated for the entire event.

2. Be prepared to share.

One of the biggest benefits of an industry trade show is networking, whether you are reconnecting with peers you’ve met before, or meeting new ones. Reach out before the show to schedule meetings – formal or informal – with contacts you know will be in attendance. Meals are a great opportunity to meet since they can otherwise be wasted time during a trade show. 

Be sure to bring lots of business cards to hand out, or invest in a digital business card that leverages QR code or NFC technology for easy scanning and sharing. Start conversations waiting for the bus, standing in line, or waiting for a talk to start. You never know who you’ll meet and where the conversation could take you.

3. Take notes as you go.

Speaking of business cards, a great idea is to make a note on the back of each card you receive with an action item or information on the conversation. Some digital card apps allow you to make notes on each contact you import as well. If all else fails, your phone notepad can help you record key details.

At the end of the day when you’re back in your hotel, take a few minutes to write a thank you note or a “nice to meet you” message while it is fresh on your mind. The end of the day is also a good time to write down notes or thoughts that can be useful for following up after the show or writing a show recap. Show recaps are helpful in identifying your ROI on each trade show you attend and deciding whether to attend again next year.

4. Educate yourself.

Trade shows are one of the best places to connect with thought leaders for your industry. Be sure to select some sessions and keynotes that address emerging topics and trends. Attend and participate in committee meetings that help shape policy for the industry. Talk to vendors and exhibitors to learn more about what they see on the horizon. Industry trade shows can be an excellent way to help future-proof your fleet by becoming more aware of future trends and technologies.

5. Connect with partners and vendors.

Trade shows are also an excellent opportunity for fleets to talk to many existing and potential vendors in a single day. For companies you’re just meeting, it’s a good idea to have your “elevator pitch” ready regarding your company. How would you succinctly describe your fleet? Also be able to share the pain points you’re trying to solve. Why did you come to this conference? What solutions are you hoping to find?

Take some time to think about the strengths or challenges that you can share, and about your goals for the months and years to come. Remember your confidentiality guidelines, but don’t miss the chance to see what kind of solutions are available to really make a difference for your fleet in the future.

Industry trade shows are a unique combination of business and fun. Networking can take place in meeting rooms, on the show floor, and at sponsored social events. With a little forethought and a willingness to connect, you can make your next trade show a truly beneficial endeavor for your fleet.

Platform Science looks forward to connecting with new and potential partners in the upcoming trade show season. Come see us at Truckload 2024 at Booth #429.