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How to visit a trade fair (Part 1)? A few tips on preparation

How to visit a trade fair (Part 1)? A few tips on preparation

If you are in the B2B-world, you will be confronted with the question to participate to trade fairs or not, whether as a visitor or an exhibitor. In the last years, I came across various opinions concerning this, and often it comes to your own objectives. But one thing is for sure, whether visiting or exhibiting, your fair experience can only be a success if you prepare it, execute it correctly, and follow it up.

Based on experience on different fairs in the past years, in several posts, I would like to share a few tips on both visiting and exhibiting.  

How to prepare your visit in advance?

Ask yourself the question: what type of fair is it?

This is definitely the first step in your preparation. The type of exhibitors, the type of functions (sales, key account managers, mid- or high management…), the amount of new products and innovations… represented on the stands will be influenced by these parameters.

  • Certain fairs are definitely international others are pretty local.
  • Is it a main event in the sector or is it organized by a wholesale business for its customers
  • Is the event reserved for professionals only or are consumers also present?

Just asking yourself these questions, already starts to answer the question whether the event is worth your time.

Prepare your trip

Avoid time loss and pick your day(s)

Decide how much time you dedicate to visit. Certain fairs last a couple of days, and you might want to avoid certain busy days. For example, avoid Sunday for local fairs as professionals often bring their families and it can get quite busy. Also avoid the last day. Out of experience, on last days you can encounter that certain exhibitors are off their game, or out of products to display, or even already even dismantling hours before the official end of the event.

Avoid queues and register in advance

The amount of time you allocate to visit is precious so use it wisely. You don’t want to waste it with tedious registration queues. Especially fair organizers use the registration as the moment to collect your data for future analysis and marketing use.

Also, a nice plus is that often if you register in advance, your badge will be cheaper than if you purchase it on the day of your visit.

Transportation and hotel

Depending on the location, it is best you check the opportunity of staying overnight (before or after your visit) to make sure you are fully rested before you start your visit. Also long trips after an exhausting day of walking through isles and standing most of the day should be avoided.

Now if you choose to stay overnight, or to take public transportation, chances are that other visitors will make the same choice. I remember a few train trips during which I could already network with potential partners and prospects. The only inconvenience if you take public transport is that many times, you might come back with more material than you expect (samples, folders…). So remember you might be overloaded.

Finally, check the weather in advance. I know it sounds trivial, but bad weather can really jeopardize the length of your journey. Nothing is worse than wasting a big portion of your day because you didn’t anticipate this inconvenience. Especially if you only allocated one day of visit. 

Plan who to visit

Check the website for the plan and exhibitors list. Also check if there are interesting conferences or animations to go to. There will be ‘must see’ booths, and planning your different stops according to a plan will also limit your walking.

Communicate your visit

You might want to consider this. I don’t know many people doing it (yet). But sending messages (mail, tweets, …) to your network, and to exhibitors you plan to visit will get you appointments already. This will help you plan your day(s) on the fair. Also you will avoid the visits that you need to repeat, because the most important person for you to see on a booth ‘just left to stretch his legs or get something to eat’.

Set your goals and targets

Let me finish this first section with what in my eyes is a key point. A visit to a trade fair is an investment of your time, and in some cases money if travel costs is involved (e.g. hotel, transportation…). Therefore, you have to get a return on your investment, especially if you need to justify it to a superior. So according to your preparation, give yourself some targets : e/g an amount of contacts to do, an amount of new contacts, an amount of contacts resulting in new prospects… 


There now that you are prepared, you can get going. Next post : tips for during your visit.