The summer months are behind us and we're coming into one of our favorite times of the year – trade show season. From TTG to ITB, we're gearing up for the events that bring the whole world of travel together under one roof.
Trade shows are multifaceted because they allow you a chance to hear from leading experts, meet with potential partners, and even provide awareness about your business. With WTM London coming up, we look forward to figuring out how to make the most of the opportunities these events offer.
Looking forward to your next trade show? Here's how to make it more productive.
1. Strengthening your network
The most clear opportunity of any event or trade show is the chance to strengthen your network. You'll have the opportunity to meet with everyone from local competitors to big names in the industry. Make the most of these opportunities by showing up for as many social events as you can. To make the most out of your time, you should schedule meetings throughout the event and try to keep conversation going at your company's stand if you have one. An important thing to remember is that you're not just talking to talk, you're trying to bring value to the people you're speaking with.
"One of the most powerful networking practices is to provide immediate value to a new connection. This means the moment you identify a way to help someone, take action."
-Lewis Howes, author of The School of Greatness
2. Developing partnerships
Unlike with local events, you have the chance to meet people from all over the world at trade shows. The types of partnerships you could build might bring your business forward and help you expand the scope of your business. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 46% percent of trade show attendees are in executive or upper management. This means that there's not only potential to speak direct manager of a company, nearly one half of the people you meet might be actively looking to expand their distribution and network. It's the perfect time to talk business with a company you respect and try to highlight how you both can benefit from working together.
3. Meeting potential customers
Not only can attending trade shows help you widen your network and connect with partners, it can help you gain new customers. According to research by The Center for Exhibition Industry Research, it takes an average of 4.5 sales calls to close a sale with a lead. However, with a lead that's gained through an exhibition, that number goes down to only 3.5 calls. That might not seem like much, but the money might do the talking here.
The same study revealed that trade show leads will cost you 38% less to acquire and convert into a customer. While you may not close the deal with a customer during the trade show, simply meeting with an interested party could lead to sale down the line.
4. (Shameless) Self-promotion
It might feel strange trying to talk yourself up, but if there ever was a time, this is it. The most effective self-promotion starts before the event. During the early phases of trade show planning, look for ways that your company can have a space to represent itself. These events usually highlight opportunities to get involved through social media and on their websites several months before the event.
A tried and true method to promote your business is to have your own exhibitor booth. This is a great way for other businesses to see you and learn about what you offer. But, you could also look for an official event to attend or a cocktail hour you can help to sponsor.
If you don't have the budget to invest in too much paid promotion, just get onto the trade show's official forums and start introducing yourself to others. If those connections go well, perhaps you'll be able to arrange partnerships meetings during the event. You never know who you could end up speaking with! Just remember to always remain professional and respectful of others.
5. Hearing from your favorite speakers
These events set a rare level of access to industry experts and thought leaders. At ITB Berlin this year, we got to hear firsthand from experts at companies like Google and Booking.com. The opportunity to be front-row during a presentation by a respected expert in the travel industry is enough of a reason to attend a trade show and most events even offer a panel discussion or Q&A session where you can have your questions answered.
Before you attend the event, highlight a few presentations you'd like to be present for. Look for speakers you'd like to hear from and possibly even talk to afterwards. Be prompt for each session you're attending (the popular ones tend to fill up quickly) and have a notebook handy so you can write down any key takeaways for yourself. You never know how much you'll learn in a session, so come prepared!
6. Staying current with the industry
The great thing about trade shows is that everyone is looking for ways to improve something. Be it themselves, their knowledge on a subject, or some aspect of their business. This sets an ideal stage to expand your knowledge and help you continue to learn well into the next year.
Many trade shows offer some sort of a mentoring program where you can sit with an expert and have your business approach assessed. Take the time to set up one of these meetings over drinks and discuss where your missing pieces might be.
You have the chance to not only learn from the best and start conversations with inspirational people, you can have a first look at some of the changes coming for your industry. It could be your best chance to learn directly from industry leaders, bigger companies, and even direct competitors.
There is plenty to gain from attending a trade show. From self-improvement to customers, if you put in the effort, you'll always walk away with some new information and positive relationships. There's no way to see and do everything, but if you try to do a few of the things mentioned here, you'll walk away from your event knowing it was worth your time and investment.
Will you be at WTM London next month? Let's meet up!
Published by Sara Napier Burkhard
Sara is a writer from the American West Coast. In recent years, she's written for companies like Hipmunk, iTourMobile and Mylikes. She now resides in Zurich, Switzerland where she finds new adventures and attempts to speak German with minimal success.