Conferences and industry trade shows are an essential part of the wonderful world of teeth. They’re a great way to see the latest products, watch live demonstrations, and meet exhibitors. They’re also an important education venue for pinning down the eternal list of C.E. requirements. But if attendees are not careful, the long hours and compelling need to see everything can turn trade shows into an overwhelming nightmare.
Prepare yourself. Get the most from your trade show investment and keep your wits intact. Here are a few guidelines to help you navigate through the masses.
The entry process can be frustrating. Make sure your credentials are in order to avoid problems with paperwork. Book your transportation and accomodations early to get the best deals.
Review the program and think about what you’d like to accomplish at the show, whether it’s the number of exhibitors you want to speak with, a new product you’d like to see in action, or a presentation you would like to attend.
Explore the trade show website
Conference websites are filled with good planning tools. Create your itinerary before you attend. Review exhibitor profiles.
Download the show app
The bigger shows offer free mobile apps for iPad and smartphone users. Apps offer attendees easy access to schedules and speaker information, exhibitors, and alerts. App users can search courses, download course materials and find exhibitors by name or product category. Some apps have exhibitor hall maps so you can find your destination.
Take advantage of social media
Use your Twitter and Facebook accounts to follow updates on your favorite exhibitors. Many companies tweet and post giveaways, prizes, and show-only deals throughout the day. When you arrive at the show, determine the most common show-related hashtags for an easy way to search for the latest tweets.
Plan your route
Save your energy. Save time. Print a copy of the exhibitor hall floor plan. Identify the ones you want to visit and draw a walking route. Target the areas where the aisles are less crowded. 80% of attendees enter the hall and walk to the right, so walk the opposite direction.
Know your badge
Make sure your information is correct (see rule #1). Exhibitors may ask to scan your badge, which you may allow or decline. If you allow them to scan, all of the information you provided when you registered for the trade show is shared with the exhibitors at the end of the show. You may also politely decline and offer your business card instead.
Bring a camera
Use your smartphone or camera to remind you of items you might want to purchase, but ask if you can take pictures first.
Shop the show
Wander the entire floor before purchasing to prevent buyer’s remorse.
Involve your team
Talk with your team about ways to improve productivity at your practice. RDAs and RDHs are great at shopping for deals. Use their eyes to spot the latest technology on the exhibitor floor and in C.E. courses. Ask them to report their findings to you by the end of the show so your practice can take advantage of trade show specials.
Many food booths and catering trucks do not accept credit cards. You may actually need to buy a $6 bottle of water or a $14 sandwich.
Trade shows are a good work out. You’ll be walking most of the day, which means you’ll probably be sweating. It’s important to drink plenty of water so you can keep up with those long days and outrageously fun nights. Buy an extra bottle to keep in your tote bag.
Bring extra business cards
You have the opportunity to speak with lots of people. Be ready to cultivate new relationships and build your industry circles. The exhibitor scanning machines don’t always work. Bring extra cards so the exhibitors you like can add you to their mailing list. Carry the extra cards in your badge holder for easy access.
Dress to impress but remember that you’ll be walking around all day on concrete floors, so think about comfort. For women, this may mean shoes with shorter heals and a wider toe box. For men, wear a pair of soft leather shoes that have been properly broken in. When speaking with an exhibitor, step into their booth and away from the aisle. Take advantage of the comfy padding many exhibitors put down under their carpet. Wear clothing that breathes well since you’ll be wading through crowds of people.
Trade shows often run for consecutive days. It’s important to unwind and decompress from all the face-to-face interaction. Relax in your hotel room with your favorite music. Take a long bath or at the very least soak your feet for a few minutes. Pack a Zip-loc of aroma-therapy bubble bath or epsom salts in your luggage.
Trade shows are a lot of work. Remember to reward yourself by scheduling lunch or dinner with friends. It’s a great time to share information about new products and keep your pulse on industry news.
Enjoy your next trade show. Please share any of your own dental trade show survival guide tips in the comments below.