Attendance at trade shows is a budget line item for any business owner. Many members of an owner’s workforce must maintain clear understandings of the industry, remain certified and trained, and build relationships. A trade show is an excellent place to do all these things conveniently at one location.

However, steps must be taken to ensure that the time spent at a show adds to the attendee’s knowledge base, is prioritized and well-spent, and benefits the company’s bottom line. These steps include planning and scheduling time, participating in applicable education opportunities, networking, and following up on information and with contacts captured at the event. This article outlines how to do so.

Pre-plan

Technology showcases, certifications, educational sessions and the exhibit hall are all places attendees want to be. However, each person’s time is limited, and no one can be in more than one place at a time. To maximize the financial investment of a trade show, early and careful planning is essential.

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Attendees should develop a schedule and have it on two platforms — digital and print. Not all shows have Wi-Fi available, and sometimes cellphone signals will be poor inside the facilities. The print version is the backup plan.

Many shows now have apps with which attendees can develop their schedules, search for exhibitors and get updates regarding the show. These are useful tools, and participants should definitely use them. However, if the appointments and other activities are time critical, a print a backup copy.

Education

In few places will the quantity and quality of educational opportunities be more plentiful than at a trade show. From technical showcases in the exhibit hall to educational sessions presented by industry experts, attendees will be able to select from a bounty of topic-, equipment- and certification-focused presentations.

Scheduling time for sessions on the topics that directly apply to the job is the first step in gaining as much relevant knowledge as possible. Water treatment professionals should discuss their schedules with their supervisors to determine the sessions that they should attend to get the most from the investment of time and money.

Networking

Most shows provide cocktail hours, networking breakfasts or lunches, and other times for attendees to meet and network with industry experts and each other. Participants should take advantage of these opportunities. Be open to starting and joining conversations. Often, others have experienced similar problems or issues, and talking with them may quickly provide solutions. In addition, contacts within a professionals’ community will broaden conversations and may provide opportunities to work together on projects.

Networking is a great benefit, but never take a business card without following up. After getting a business card, participants should jot a note on the back to remind them of the conversation and why the relationship will be beneficial. To maintain the relationship, quick follow-up is required once the event ends.