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10 Things To Know Before Attending Your First Trade Show

Posted by Denise Hummel on

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(Las Vegas World Market Center - Building B)

This past January I was fortunate to travel to Las Vegas for a home and gift trade show at the Las Vegas World Market Center.  Having been warned that a home and gift trade show could be a little overwhelming for newbies, I am happy to report that I lived through it all.  Learning a lot from this show, here are 10 things that might help new attendees to know in advance, whether a home and gift show, or other industry trade show.

Show Pre-Planning

1.  Stay at or near a trade show sponsored hotel

Booking your hotel early may beat the crowd and get you a better rate, but make sure that you are staying at or near a hotel that is on the trail for trade show shuttles. I booked cheaply off the shuttle circuit but luckily only had to walk a couple blocks to another hotel to catch a show shuttle.

2.  Leave yourself enough travel time for your flight

Make your flight the day before the show starts, or the day before you want to visit the show. It took me 15 hrs. to get from Michigan to Las Vegas due to an airline computer glitch that grounded us in Chicago for 6 hours. Luckily I hadn't planned on visiting the show the first day, however getting in at 12 am Vegas time sucked a little joy out of the journey getting there.

3.  Take extra room in your suitcase

The cost of extra baggage is an added expense to the trip, but I recommend taking a larger bag than you need for clothing and accessories. If you are a catalog hoarder you will have lots of new catalogs and other freebies to take back.  Make room to carry them home in your checked bag -- remember not to go over 50 lbs -- those catalogs can be heavier than a 10 lb. makeup bag.

Las Vegas World Market | Nuthatch

4.  Take someone with you

Traveling with someone to trade shows or meeting up with friends enhances the experience. Sharing rooms and transportation can cut down on expenses. I didn't take anyone with me but had a family member that was exhibiting at the show. We were able to meet for lunch and dinner and talk about points of interest and a little slot machine evaluation too!

5.  Map a plan

After you register and provide the required information for the show you will receive materials that include exhibitors, shuttle schedules, and other planning information. Mapping out where you want to go beforehand will give you a good start, but I believe to do a show right, you need to be flexible and go with an eye for what you're looking for. There were lots of surprise vendors that I was not expecting to see and it enriched my visit, but then, sometimes I am easily excited.

Trade-show Day

6.   The shuttle schedule

Make sure you know the shuttle schedule. Do to my late night I wasn't too motivated to get up early to go to the show. The shuttle schedule forced me to go a little earlier because it only ran from 9-11 am and then 4-6 pm for returns.

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(World Market Center - Shuttle Service)

7.  Wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers

Looking nice and trendy is fun with this group of people, but plan on walking a lot. Wear comfortable walking shoes. Your feet will thank you. In fact, preparing for a 5k walk/run may not be a bad plan. I'm half way serious, but my Fitbit registered over 12,000 steps the first day, That's approx. 5 miles. 5 miles with only visiting 1 of three building and only 4 stories of a 16 story building. I covered more ground with the same amount of steps on day two; I guess I wasn't going in as many circles on day two.  Also, Vegas was cold outside and warm inside. Dressing in light layers helped adjust.

8.  Don't expect to see everything or everyone to see you

As I said, the Vegas show included 3 multiple story buildings and 3 large pavilion tents. Although I would have loved to see products in the other building, there wasn't enough time.  This show was very busy.  Many exhibitors allowed pre-scheduling an appointment to speak with a representative during the show.  As much as I couldn't see everything at the show, with the number of people attending, it's also unreasonable to expect to talk to a rep, unless you are going to place an order -- that does seem to get their attention.  The amount time, energy and creativity that some vendors put into their display amazed me.  HomArt's display was one of those that was creatively designed and very popular among attendee's.

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(World Market Center Vendor - HomArt, California Design House)

9.  Take a fold-able tote bag

I don't need to explain much here, but as a first time attendee, I starting acquiring things before I had my first bag. Next time I would put a fold-able tote in my purse to start and then migrate it into another more fun complimentary bag.

10.  Networking

Second only to finding new products, the best thing about the trade show was talking with other people in the business and hearing their story. I have been to trade shows and exhibits for other industries, but the home and gift show tops my experience for mingling with so many kind and happy people.  It may seem obvious that you should take business cards with you, but I met a few people who forgot theirs.  You will want to share your card.  You may even want to consider a special business card just for trade shows. 

From buyers, to exhibitors, to trade show employees there were a lot of fun and cheery people. Maybe it was Vegas, maybe it was the industry, either way, it was a good time.  With one show under my belt, I'm ready for the next.

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