Volume 16, Issue 5 - September/October 2012

By Donna Wells

Making the Most of Shows

As the fall approaches it is that time again to get ready for the 2012 International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ and the SEMA Show! Ask yourself, why should I participate in trade shows and conferences? After all, will this benefit me? In a word, YES—YES, it should!

Work It
The real question is how to make the most out of working a trade show? Working? Yes, trade shows are work, even if you are not purchasing a booth and spending long hours speaking to people in a confined space, you are still “working” the show. You are meeting and greeting potential vendors that you would like to do business with and you are scoping out the competition (and they are checking you out too!). Finally, you are connecting with people you may not have seen in years. If you know me personally, you know that I absolutely love working trade shows—always have and probably always will. I have learned through the years how to work the show and how to benefit from the show regardless which side of the booth I am standing. Here are a few tips that might help you succeed in your trade show investment.

Trade shows are not company-paid vacations. Trade shows are a business investment. Ask yourself, “How will this show benefit my company? Will I gain insight on how to improve my business? Will I learn new installation or sales techniques? Will attending the show help my bottom line? Will I gain more than I will invest?”

If you answer yes to at least three of these questions then you should strongly consider investing in the show. Many trade shows will offer continuing education classes that will benefit your business. I always try to take at least one class a day per show day. So, for example, if I were attending a show for three days, I would spend at least three hours in continuing education classes. I always learn something new and I meet other business-minded people outside of the window film industry who have similar interests and experiences to mine. I like to “pick their brain” on how they deal with various situations.

Pre-Show Homework
Look and see who is setting up a booth at the show. Decide which companies will benefit your business most and go to those booths first. Is there a particular manufacturer that you have wanted to spend time with or is there a new product/service that you’ve wanted to see? Schedule meetings with those companies and stick to the time reserved. Salespeople at trade shows are more casual in their sales approach and this might be the right time to decide if you really want to do business with a specific company. Companies who purchase trade show booths are looking for new business and sometimes offer amazing show specials as well.

Get Social
Attend social breakfasts, lunches and banquet awards. Go to one of the sponsored functions, even if you do not know another person attending. I do and I usually go alone. I meet other individuals and I hope to gain a business card or two that will lend itself into a business partner or consumer along the way. Ladies, my favorite is the SEMA Show breakfast for women. It’s always a fun event and though it is early in the morning, they give away great gift bags.

Sort it Out
Finally, when you get back to the office with your show bag full of goodies and your pockets filled with business cards, what do you do with all of that stuff? Do you sort through everything or do you put it in a corner to collect dust until you throw it away? That bag is filled with good intentions, but you need to make it happen. Sort through the bag and put the business card information into your computer and send everyone a “Thank you for taking the time to speak with me” note. We all like being appreciated and more importantly remembered. Order (and install) samples you thought were beneficial to your company. Put the brochures you picked up into a folder for safe keeping. Remember, you took time off from work, paid for a hotel/car/entertainment, etc. Make the most out of the treasures you collected. It could lead to a year of prosperity!

Donna Wells is the division head of the wholesale division at Window Film Depot.

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