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Trade shows are a staple of the construction industry, an essential tool for both networking and product promotion and discovery. Whether you work in construction, mining, earthmoving, or aggregates, attending industry trade shows is never a bad idea. However, they can also be expensive, crowded, and overflowing with information, so prepare in advance by familiarizing yourself with these 7 simple ways to get the most out of attending any construction trade show.

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Go With a Plan

Because the main goal of a construction industry trade show is to share new technologies and services that increase efficiency and reduce downtime, simply showing up to one is an invaluable opportunity for you to find better products, improve your company operations, and grow your business. But before jumping on a plane and heading to a big-time construction show like ConExpo-Con/Agg or World of Concrete, it's important that you know exactly what it is you're looking for.

What Does Your Business Need?

If you've been reevaluating a product, hardware, or software you've been using in the field and are considering looking for something new, now is the time. Get a full list of any issues you're having with the tools your business is currently using, and jump online to research possible replacements. Many trade shows (ConExpo-Con/Agg, for example) have exhibitor directories where you can easily search for products and services by category.

Go to the trade show armed with your full list of needs. This will expedite your visits to individual exhibitor booths and help you walk away with the information you need and nothing else (except swag, of course).

Map Everything Out

Study the trade show floor plan and locate the vendors or exhibitors you're already interested in visiting. You can generally find the floor plan on the show website. Large events are always difficult to navigate, and the only thing worse than attending a trade show wearing the wrong shoes is showing up with 10+ booths to visit and immediately getting lost.


Make Appointments with Exhibitors in Advance

Some exhibitor booths become swamped with attendees, making it difficult for exhibitor staff to give equal attention to everyone. Do yourself a favor, and make an appointment. Exhibitors are thrilled to hear from attendees before the show, and scheduling a specific time to visit their booth guarantees you a good, focused conversation and sometimes even a special deal on their product!


Get Hands-On

Always Ask to See the Product in Action

Most exhibitors will have sample products available for you to see right there on the show floor. Take advantage of this. Be it some sweet new heavy machinery, a cutting-edge software, or some other innovative service, always ask the vendor for a short demonstration of their product on the spot. You're allowed to do that - it's what trade shows are for. If the exhibitor came unprepared to give you a demo or hands-on experience of some kind, that's on them.


Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Remember, you're there to get as much information as possible, so don't wait until the show's over to ask exhibitors to clarify what they have to offer. At the booth, you'll have the opportunity to stand right in front of the product and scrutinize it in person, so ask the exhibition staff as many questions as you can think of. You can always follow up later when you think of more.


Go to Extracurricular Events

Attend Any Exhibitor-Scheduled Demos

Often, exhibitors will hold larger demonstrations in a group space beyond the booth. Go to these. You're likely to get better information and will get the opportunity to hear questions from other attendees that you might not have thought to ask.

Check Out Networking Events Happening Outside the Show

Your time spent on the exhibition floor will likely be loud, hectic, and a little overwhelming. Once you've had a chance to put your feet up in your hotel room for a few minutes, make a plan to attend some smaller networking events being hosted by the exhibitors you're most interested in. A less formal atmosphere makes for easier conversations and if you're lucky, VIP customer discounts.

Don't Forget to Enjoy Yourself

Trade shows for all industries typically include a slew of after hours activities, including free dinners, parties, and, yes, open bars. This may be a work trip, but don't forget to have fun. It'll help you recharge after an entire day of taking in way too much information.

Oh, and get you some swag too. :)


Be Honest About Your Interest

Trade shows require a ton of time and energy, both yours and the exhibitors', so before you say "maybe" to a product you're not interested in because you're trying to be to be polite, remember that everyone's time is valuable. Instead of telling an exhibitor what they want to hear, the best business practice is to just be honest with them. There's never anything wrong with saying "no thanks," and moving on.

Otherwise, their salespeople might hound you for the rest of your days. And you don't want that.


Visit Vendors You Already Use

It might seem counter intuitive, but one of the most productive things you can do at a trade show is to visit the booths representing products and services your business is already using. Whether you have some issues with the product or you're the happiest customer ever, always visit. It's a good opportunity to:

  1. Learn about new features or products you didn't know about
    Equipment manufacturers, suppliers, software companies, and even membership-driven organizations are always coming out with new and better ways to help their customers. There's a good chance they have something you've wanted for a long time, but just didn't know about.
  2. Get in-person support
    Ask for assistance with any issues you've been having with their product. They're grateful for your business, and they want to help. They'll probably appreciate the feedback, too.
  3. Find out if they have a customer referral program or some other way for you to get a sweet discount
    This is a big one. Exhibitors are always excited to get a visit from one of their customers, so they'll definitely be happy to see you. So happy, in fact, they might let you in on any promotions they're running. Always ask vendors if any discounts are available for current customers who help them land a new deal. Referral programs are common, just not widely advertised.


Follow Up After the Show

If you're still interested in a product or vendor once you get back to the office, always follow up with the exhibitors as quickly as possible. The week following a show is a good time to:

  1. Sit down with your team and reevaluate your list.
    Narrow it down to the exhibitors you want to get back in touch with.
  2. Schedule followup calls with exhibitors.
    Ask additional questions, get another demo, begin the sale process, etc.
  3. See if your favorite exhibitors have any trade show-related offers or discounts still happening.
    They want to land deals as quickly as possible, so they often schedule their special promotions to end the week or so following the event.

On with the show!


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