I am already preparing to head to a regional trade show for promotional product consultants in August. It is one of two large trade shows for the promotional products industry that I attend each year.
In this day and age of finding everything online and having an amazing search engine dedicated to the promotional products industry, why do I take time out of the office and money out of my bottom line to attend? (Not to mention the aching feet and back at the end of the day.)
Attending a trade show, whether it is a local tabletop show, a regional show, or a national convention is one of the best ways to get professional development and forge relationships.
Most trade shows offer some sort of educational component. In many cases, this can be the route to professional accreditation. In my case, I've achieved my MAS (Master Advertising Specialist) as a result of completing class credits at these conferences.
The educational offerings are a great way to learn about what’s new in your industry, to brush up on any rusty skills, learn more about business tactics and trends and to find out about new and impending legislation that could impact the way you do business. Whether a professional accreditation is involved or not, professional development is the way to stay at the top of your game so you can offer the most value to your clients.
As for forging relationships, a trade show gives you the opportunity to put a face to the person you’ve only dealt with over the phone or via e-mail. It allows you to meet people who face the same types of challenges you have in business and to share ideas with them. You might learn about a new supplier that you would never have otherwise even known existed? You never know when a current supplier will drop the ball, or a client will need something that you might not know how to source – meeting new suppliers and making the right contacts at a trade show might just help you save a sale gone wrong or make a new customer for life!
It's also a great place to connect with your friendly competitors. Personally, I belong to an amazing online group of promotional product consultants from all over North America. We "chat" on a daily basis via an e-mail app to ask advice, seek sources, and get affirmation about some of our decisions. The big show we go to in Las Vegas every year allows many of us to connect in person and solidify the friendships and rapport we already have. It usually results in an amazing dinner at the buffet at Mandalay Bay that about 20 - 25 of us attend on one night of the show.
Look into the trade shows offered in your industry and make a commitment to attend at least one each year. What you learn, the connections you make and the energy you get will be well worth your time, money and sore feet!