Well, answers vary but include evaluating product selection and product availability, finding out what's new in the industry, networking to find out about new opportunities, or increasing your industry knowledge through training opportunities. Knowing your primary goal will help in your planning process.
As time seems to be more valuable today, people attending trade shows want more. Attendees want events that provide new product coverage, educational seminars that fill certification or training requirements, or present new technology.
And according to Jill Ryan, group show director for Cygnus Expositions, the company that organizes the Aviation Industry Expo, the lion's share of marketing is to attract attendees. "We do that through a variety of means, we do it through direct mail, advertising, and email. We certainly highlight exhibits because most people that come to a show want to see the product. They want to know what's going to be on the show floor, who's going to be on the show floor. Secondarily would be any educational content.
"People used to send whole teams from their company to trade shows, they don't do that any more. So the people that they do send, they're trying to get the most bang for their time commitment. Education is the No. 2 priority in terms of our marketing."
In planning to attend a show you have to know what, where, and when events are being scheduled. This can be accomplished by reading trade publications or visiting web sites that list events, exhibitors, and training seminars along with receptions or other festivities that would enable networking like golfing events or a fund-raising event.
Knowing the dates and location can provide the information you need to plan around work schedules, vacations, or budgets. If a show is close to where you live or work it's easier to convince management that it would be a cost-effective trip; if it's across the country you might need to tie it in with a vacation.
Either way, finding out as far ahead as possible benefits both the attendee and the exhibitor as plans can be made early and usually result in finding discounts before hotels and flights are booked up.
Trade shows offer the best interactive solution. You can see products in action to evaluate them. You can talk to suppliers to hear benefits and features, register complaints about previous models, request new features, or provide a testimonial on how the product has improved your performance.
You have a job to do and are looking for products that will make your job easier and safer. There's nothing like being able to actually see and hold a product. Product specs are useful but hands-on testing is going to make the decision-making process easier. How does it look, how does it feel, and will the company stand behind it are all questions you can get answers to by visiting exhibitor booths.
This is an opportunity for suppliers to hear from you on how their product is doing or how it can be improved. Knowing how it performs and how it's being used is valuable information that can go back to the company to help redesign a product or to create something new.
Besides presenting new products, trade shows allow attendees to talk about the industry. You can find out what issues people are facing and if they are the same as yours. Or if you're looking to see if there are positions that would further your career, attending trade shows can allow you to meet the person who has a position open or who might know someone who does.
Another feature of trade shows are career search seminars to allow people to find out about companies and what positions are available. Most shows also have bulletin boards with job postings that can help if searching for a better position.
If you're looking at a career change, knowing what positions are available will reveal what skills you need to develop. And checking what topics are being covered and when allows you to get the most out of whatever time you have available.
So if you are considering a trip to a trade show, check available resources and plan. Make the most of what the industry has to offer.