If you’re headed to a tech trade show as an attendee or presenter, you may be wondering how to get ready. While some elements are similar to any other trade gathering, there are specific things you’ll want to keep in mind for a technology-specific event. 

Trade show marketing is big business in the United States. Companies utilize the events to show off their newest products and network with other companies and potential customers. They generate around $12.8 billion in revenue each year, with some of that money going to registrations and about 25% to sales from exhibits. 

You probably already know the many benefits of tech trade shows, such as getting your brand name out there, learning what your competitors are up to and meeting new contacts. Here are some specific tips for your first tech trade show, whether you are an attendee or representing your company for the first time.

Tips For Attending Your First Tech Trade Show 

Perhaps you are attending a multivendor sales event as an observer. There are some things you can expect at nearly any tech affair. Here’s how to make the best use of your time.

1. Find Out Who Is Attending

Many tech trade shows publish lists ahead of the event listing who is attending. You should look carefully at key speakers and exhibitors. Think about who you can learn the most from based on your line of work. Be sure to stop by that exhibit or workshop and introduce yourself. Your goal may be to find a strong mentor in the industry or simply to learn what you can from the speech. Make a plan for who you want to spend the most time with.

2. Don’t Try To Do It All

Most trade conferences also offer workshops, keynote speakers, mixers and many other events. Don’t try to do every single thing on the agenda. You’ll simply wear yourself out and walk away feeling overwhelmed. Instead, identify one or two things you’d like to learn from the experience and hone in on those workshops that meet your goals. 

3. Eavesdrop on Conversations

You can learn a lot about the industry by hanging out in common areas or the venue bar and listening in on conversations. Don’t do this to steal trade secrets but to learn how to make the most of your experience. Use good judgment and ethics about what you listen to. If the conversation seems top secret or personal, tune out.

4. Know the Dress Code

You don’t want to be overdressed or underdressed. A big rookie mistake is dressing too fancy for the event at hand. Jump into online forums or groups and ask what others have worn in the past. Share that you’re a newbie and people will be much more likely to help you. Some events also send out recommended dress code, such as business casual. If you still aren’t certain, it’s better to overpack so you have a selection of outfits and can quickly change if needed. 

Representing Your Tech Business For The First Time At A Trade Show

Perhaps you were asked to represent your company at the trade show, and you’re feeling unsure of how best to accomplish that. You want to make a good impression on other attendees, potential clients and your boss. Here are five ways to make the most of the experience.

1. Schedule Booth Meetings Ahead Of Time

Maximize your time by planning booth meetings a few weeks before you get to the trade show. Contact top clients to see if they are attending and invite them to stop by for a quick meeting. It’s a good idea to have a small present for them as a gesture of goodwill. You can give them a bag or jacket with the company emblem, for example.

Handing out goodies also serves as a promotional tool, as others will see the item as the person walks around the rest of the booths. However, the products you give to people just passing by and those who are already long-time customers should be quite different. Show your current customers you value them and make those who aren’t yet clients a little envious. 

2. Go Digital With Your Booth

If you have any input into the design of the booth, talk to management about creating an experience people will remember. You can utilize features such as virtual reality (VR) by making signage interactive or setting up a game that shows what your product is capable of. 

You should also look at displays that incorporate social media. For example, you might challenge your customers to stop by and take a selfie and award prizes based on who uploaded with a specific hashtag. Get creative with your promotions during and after the event to get the most traction possible. 

3. Prepare To Take Orders On The Spot

One of the biggest benefits of cloud computing today is that you can tap into your inventory and sales systems from anywhere in the world. This allows you to take orders on the spot from current and new clients. If the sale is large, you can see at a glance how much inventory you have or if you’ll need to delay shipment. 

Transparency with a new client goes a long way toward gaining their trust. You might let them know you’ve taken several big orders, and while you can fulfill half of theirs up front, it will be a couple of weeks before you can send the rest. Most companies will work with you in these situations as long as you don’t promise something you can’t deliver.

4. Plan Your Layout

Plan the booth’s layout ahead of time, but be ready to make changes. The flow of traffic in the exhibit space isn’t always something you can easily predict. If you will be doing demonstrations, make sure access to your booth is not blocked. Be ready to rearrange displays and place your entrance on the other side. 

You may even want to sketch out some alternative layouts. You want people to come into your booth and talk to you, so you may need to rearrange some elements to accomplish that. You’ll know more once you’re at the event. 

5. Grab Attention

There will be hundreds of booths at any event you attend. It’s important to figure out how to grab attention and pull people into your brand’s presence. There are many different ways of doing this, such as offering freebies, having attendees play a game for prizes or simply talking to those who pass by.

One way you can prepare ahead of time is by taking public speaking courses so you’re comfortable enough to talk to people you don’t know. The simple act of greeting those who make eye contact is one of the most powerful things you can do to engage potential clients. 

Embrace The Adventure

Attending your first tech trade show is a unique and rewarding experience. Soak up everything you can and make connections that benefit your business. Pay careful attention to the things you’d like to do differently at the next conference, as well as any tips you pick up from others attending the same show. Once you have a couple of these events under your belt, you can help other newbies get the most from their time at the conference.

Lexie is a freelance web designer and UX strategist. She loves all things design and spending time with her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.