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How to visit a trade fair (Part 2) ? A few tips for during your visit
20/CENT Retail's Podcast

How to visit a trade fair (Part 2) ? A few tips for during your visit

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. 

Make your presence on the fair an efficient and pleasant visit

If you followed the tips from my first post on your preparation, you have avoided a stressful journey, a dreadful registration queue, and you can start your visit.

Get a fresh start and get going

First of all, when I arrive at the location, I start with orientating myself. This will make me follow my pre-established plan. I never hesitate to take a couple of minutes to do so, even with a cup of coffee if necessary. The journey could have been long; I might have had to park at a different parking than the one I intended to because of traffic. Many things could have happened, so one needs to make sure he starts on the right foot. 

Be dressed for the occasion

It always sounds silly when I used to mention this point (and the next) to my colleagues or juniors. But believe me, they often understood the importance of it afterwards.

Be dressed for the occasion. If you are on a professional fair, it is best advised to be dressed with your professional attire. Even for those who think ties are no longer compulsory, it is crucial to convey the right image. Therefore suit and tie always get my preference. But, one item is crucial: comfortable shoes. Most of the day will be spent walking or standing, so believe me: wearing wonderful shiny shoes, which make your feet uncomfortable, is a mistake you will regret quite soon.

Grab your gear

Another obvious point, but believe me very helpful. Don’t forget the usual items such as business cards, pen, paper etc…

Also, smartphones have improved visits since you can concentrate your notes, take pictures and even in some cases use the fair mobile app.

But, there is one tool I always use and in which I am glad I invested: a rolling bag. Obviously I am not suggesting you take a big suitcase with you. But a rolling bag has several advantages. The first one is to collect samples, folders, etc. Needles to say that the weight of your bag will increase during the day, so it’s better to roll it than to tire yourself carrying it around on your shoulder.  Just beware, some international food fairs, don’t allow bags on the last day of the fair. Here you have another good reason to plan your visit on other days.


Food and drink

Kind of obvious, but when visiting and jumping from one booth to another, do not forget to eat and rink during the day. The body can only function if you treat it right. Resting can help you stay efficient.

Concerning alcohol consumption on these events: Usually, many exhibitors offer you something to drink on their stand. During my many visits, and over the years, I have often been offered the usual soft drinks or coffee, but also alcoholic beverages sometimes. In this case, I would advise you not to forget that you are in a professional environment. Remember you are not taking alcohol during meetings at the office, so why is a fair suddenly an opportunity to do so? Well, in the food world I can see why. For those selling such drinks, or pairing their products with it (e.g. cheese, …) tasting is part of the discovery, and there is nothing wrong with it. Obviously on this point, choose responsibly and according to the situation.

Approach the fair with the right mindset; it’s a series of meetings

As mentioned in the previous post about the preparation, you should have planned a few meetings. If not, that’s ok and you can do ‘cold’ visits. But bear in mind that each visit at a booth is kind of like a business meeting. So approach your stops at the various stands with the proper method.

In the case of seeing one of your current client or supplier, you must not forget to be updated with the latest news and developments of your file.

If approaching a new partner, don’t forget the important aspects of presentation, first impression, … all you need to make this first encounter a fruitful one.

Allow yourself to deviate from your plan

Finally, a trade fair is a big event, and you can plan as much as you want. But don’t forget to allow yourself to deviate from your route. Suddenly, you might encounter something amazing you definitely need to check out.

Don’t worry about it; you definitely will have enough time. It can be that one of the booth you intended to visit doesn’t look interesting at all, and you’ll scratch it from your to do list as soon as you see it. Anyway, you should have included extra buffer time between meetings, just for the transit between halls sometimes.

Taking some liberties with your predetermined route is part of your visit. Trade fairs are places of discoveries, and you should use them as such.

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