- Have specific goals in mind and determine which workshops and sessions will provide the most relevant information for your business needs.
- If you’re in the market for new equipment, don’t travel the show floor aimlessly—review the exhibitor list in advance and prioritize where and why you’re visiting.
- Once the conference has wrapped up (or even while it’s still going on!), be sure to connect with all new contacts from the event.
By Karen Kimerer and Nichole Jones
Although print-related conferences occur year-round, prime show season for print service providers is right around the corner. As you register for PRINT 19 or PRINTING United, remember that these shows do more than provide the perfect setting to learn about what’s new in the industry. With some advanced planning, these events can also deliver a wealth of new ideas and carve a path for business growth. Whether you’ve been to dozens of conferences or attending for the first time, these tips can help you make the most of your time during show season.
Create Conference Goals
Start by defining your conference goals. Are you attending to see new equipment before you invest, or are you more interested in networking with peers so you can learn about new ways to grow sales? Once you’ve determined the purpose of your visit, it’s easier to map out a plan. Accomplish this by:
- Scheduling meetings with key partners and vendors. Product managers and senior leaders often attend these events and are available to discuss business needs. Take advantage of this opportunity and get some valuable face time with these folks.
- Making a point to learn by reviewing the agenda and registering for workshops. Have specific goals in mind and determine which workshops and sessions will provide the most relevant information for your business needs. Some topics might seem cool and intriguing, but those that don’t sync with your goals probably aren’t worth your time at the show. If you’re really interested in a particular topic, consider catching a recap from the post-show reports!
Research and Prepare Your Itinerary
After planning your meetings and selecting/registering for your desired sessions, you'll be able to structure your days around these must-do activities when you arrive. Review/print and research any conference materials that you have access to ahead of the show floor, including conference schedule and agendas, and a map. Many conferences will have a show app, so download it in advance if one is available and familiarize yourself with the tool before you arrive. Consider researching your workshop presenters and vendor sales representatives. Understanding their background and expertise can help maximize your time with them and avoid topics that should be sourced to others.
If you’re in the market for new equipment, don’t go out on the show floor aimlessly—review the exhibitor list in advance and prioritize where and why you’re visiting. Read press releases, announcements, and the show dailies to create a better understanding of products you might encounter during the visit.
Network, Network, Network!
When you network at trade shows, do it like it’s your job! This is crucial because peer-to-peer conversations and connections can pay dividends. Here are a few tips for making the most of your networking opportunities:
- Practice an elevator pitch. Be ready to introduce yourself and your company with a 60-second description of your business and its purpose.
- Bring business cards. Even in today’s world of technology, tried-and-true business cards are still necessary when networking at large events—especially for printers! Exchanging business cards can help extend your conversations beyond the conference, enabling sales opportunities, partnerships, or just new industry contacts. Some people like to jot down notes on the back of all the business cards they collect so they won’t forget who they met or what was discussed.
- Attend the social events. After-show dinners or get-togethers are an important part of the conference experience because they enable you to network with peers (attendees and exhibitors) in an informal environment.
- Ask questions and chat after sessions. After a workshop has ended, don’t be afraid to start informal conversations about the session and engage with other attendees. Presenters typically field additional questions and feedback after their workshops as well. You might not always get an answer right away, but they’ll get back to you if you leave a business card behind!
- Introduce yourself. If you want to meet someone, introduce yourself! Don’t be shy—whether it’s a presenter or a vendor executive, take the initiative and talk to them.
- Follow up afterwards. Don’t limit your networking to the time on the conference show floor. Once the conference has wrapped up (or even while it’s still going on!), be sure to connect with all new contacts from the event. Don’t let any introductions go to waste—follow up with a LinkedIn request, an email, or a phone call! Activating the “Find Nearby” option in the LinkedIn mobile app can make it even easier to connect with others.
Use What You Learn
You should always pay attention and take notes during conference sessions, but trade shows are distracting. It can be difficult to remember what your notes really mean after an event, let alone follow up or implement anything. Follow these instructions to make processing the information you obtain a little easier:
- At the end of each workshop, make a list of what you’ll do with the information you’ve gathered. By mapping out specific takeaways and capturing those “aha!” moments right away, you’ll be better positioned to navigate post-conference activities.
- Create an action plan. Set some goals and specific benchmarks for reviewing what you’ve learned throughout the conference. If you establish a plan for what you’ll do once you’ve returned to normal life, you’ll be less likely to let all that new information fade away.
- Determine who else in your organization or peer group can benefit from the information you’ve obtained. The easiest path to implementing new learnings is to share them with others!
The Bottom Line
To make the most of your conference experiences, prioritize your top three standouts from the event. Define what you’ll need to implement them, measure your progress, and turn new ideas into growth opportunities!
Karen Kimerer, Director of Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends’ Business Development Strategies consulting service, has experienced the many challenges of expanding current market opportunities and securing new business. She has developed a systematic approach to these opportunities, addressing the unique requirements of becoming a leader in our changing industry. She is well-versed in 1:1 marketing, web-to-print, direct mail, book publishing, supply chain management, data segmentation, channel integration, and photo products.
Nichole Jones is a Senior Product Manager for Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends’ Business Development Strategies Production Printing and Packaging Consulting Services. Ms. Jones’ responsibilities include managing the promotion and distribution of InfoTrends’ content and assisting clients and channels in building business development programs. She is also responsible for developing curriculum and content for InfoTrends' training services.