Surprise! Today your boss instructed you to attend Forge Fair 2019 this coming May in Cleveland, Ohio! Your supervisor’s expectations are clear: attend the event, collect information on the latest technology to enhance your company’s profitability and check out the competition. Also, have fun, but not too much! What to do? Simple: Plan, Do, Check, Act!
Plan to Maximize Your Participation
Plan for a total, integrated approach to maximizing your participation at Forge Fair 2019.
First, establish your goals. Perhaps these goals are customer-driven. For example, identify potential modeling tools to improve forging design for affordability, or identify new die coatings to improve die wear for longer-life tools. Write down these goals to serve as a script when interacting with vendors exhibiting in Cleveland.
Second, identify targets of opportunity. Review the exhibitor list and speaker schedule. Prioritize which exhibitors you need to meet. Focus on those booths first instead of wandering aimlessly on the show floor. Review the technical presentation schedule and annotate your calendar to ensure you hear these presentations. Plan to collect business cards and literature while taking copious notes.
Third, make your travel plans. Book travel details early before flights and hotels fill up. If you are flying into Cleveland, consider taking the RTA from the airport to the city. This avoids the hassle of renting, driving, parking, refueling and returning a car. Within the city, ride sharing and cabs abound. You might even be able to fill your Fit Bit with steps depending on how far you lodge from the convention center. We like staying several blocks away from the venue to see the city and get some exercise despite the added minutes to my busy schedule. Book early!
Fourth, company content to bring along should include up-to-date business cards and current business literature. Be prepared to discuss your role in the company and your company’s capabilities. No need to go too deep but just enough to engage in a cogent conversation with others along the way. Also, when attending social events and meals, do not hang out with your coworkers! Divide and conquer. You can always talk shop at home. At Forge Fair, meet someone new – someone who will appreciate you, your company and your potential business.
Fifth, be prepared for Cleveland weather. Dress properly, professionally and comfortably. Perhaps your company has a dress code to abide by. Wear the gear. One Forging Industry Association (FIA) company is noted for its requirement for associates to wear plaid. You can’t miss them. If anything, wear comfortable shoes!
For now, this plan ought to work. Go and Do.
Do Tackle Your Top Priorities First
This year exhibits will be open while the technical program is in progress. You might do a quick trek over to the registration desk to pick up your badge and expo program. Properly badged, head into the show using your established plan. You might do a quick walk through to survey the overall show and perhaps adjust your plan. Now the fun starts.
Yes, stop at your top-priority booths first. Yes, go right on up to the representatives and introduce yourself, your company and your role within company. Explain your needs in general terms, and then let them talk. Let them demonstrate their products, show you data, show you benefits for your company and your customers. Give them your card or let them scan your badge. Follow up later in the show or after the show. Be mindful, however, that your competitors might be listening. No need to be paranoid; just be careful.
Repeat the process until you cover your list of booths. Also, attend the technical sessions for more detail. Checking out the room, you can gauge interest levels, especially of your competitors.
Work the whole show floor.
Check on Your Progress
As the show progresses, check your progress. Are you making the contacts as planned? Which remain? Are there new additions to the list? Do you need to follow up now in person while the show progresses or can you wait until after the show? Have you seen anything new to your company? Something outside of the box?
Act on What You Have Learned
Once the show is over, act on what you discovered. Rack and stack the business cards collected. Upload contact information into your contact list or customer/supplier management system. Follow up with high-priority contacts first and eventually work your way to the lower priorities.
In truth, some contacts are not relevant at all and are filed accordingly. Share ideas with others on your team. If you want to buy something, build the business case, invite the vendors in for demonstrations. Work with your boss that sent you to Cleveland. Work with your chief financial officer, and buy the technology, tools and equipment your company needs to be the best forger in North America.
Here are Some Additional Tips
Pack and pop breath mints; no need to explain why.
Be courteous of other participants and exhibitors. Don’t butt into conversations. If you really need to meet with an exhibitor, politely give a representative your card and indicate that you will return later.
Trade-show bling is meant to remind you of a product or service. Don’t be greedy. Perhaps pick up some trinkets for your administrative assistant and associates back home. Perhaps your spouse or kids would like some items. At the end of the show the vendors often unload their bling, so plan accordingly. Be careful of metal objects that might be seized at airport security.
If you want to take a picture of a piece of hardware or a booth, ask the exhibitor. Despite being a public event, they might object to pictures.
See you in Cleveland!