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How to become an efficient visitor: Do’s and Don’ts of trade fairs

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There are hundreds of reasons for visiting a professional trade show. You might go out of pure curiosity and an eager need to learn more on the given topic. You might be a so-called “professional hobbyist” – an individual related to the industry, but not directly exhibiting at the event. You might also be a freelance journalist, searching for inspiration.

As a hobbyist, your visit might be less structured, since it is less likely that you will have specified goals for the event – simply because your genuine interest in the subject does not require you to analyse what you need to get done (however, you may be more or less interested in certain areas). A “professional” hobbyist differs from the general hobbyist in the sense that he or she is professionally related to the field (e.g. owning or working in a business related to the particular industry). Such an individual is not exhibiting at the trade show, but visits either out of genuine fascination or to gain inspiration for his or her own work. For example, a jewellery store manager may visit a fashion and jewellery expo to gain insight into the current trends or network with key representatives from different countries. As a freelance journalist, you would probably need to be very attentive to everything going on, in order to get the best work-material possible. In this case, you may want to focus on the “unusual” aspects of the show (for instance extraordinary inventions) or more technical issues such as the event’s venue.

Regardless of your reasons, this simple guide targets all those wishing to make maximum use of their visit to a trade show.


The Do’s

  • Know who and know where
  • Knowing who you will actually meet at the event allows you to plan your visit better. For instance, when it comes to particularly large trade shows, you may want to book appointments ahead of time to see the representatives of specific companies you find useful or fascinating. Nonetheless, knowing who is exhibiting and which section they are in also means that you can skip entire segments if they are not of any use to you – this, in turn, leaves more time to focus on sections and exhibitors you are interested in. Lists of exhibitors (along with floor plans of particular subdivisions) can be found on the event’s official page weeks or days before the show.

      • Pre-register

    It is always better to purchase the ticket ahead of time. First of all, tickets for some events may actually be sold out – last-minute purchase naturally puts you at greater risk of not making it to the show. Second of all, you are likely to save some money this way, as most trade shows charge an additional fee on the day of the event. Last but not least, pre-registered visitors receive e-mails with news related to the show, invitations to networking events etc. This allows you to be more organized and plan your stay much better – simply because you will be aware of various parts of the show ahead of time.

      • Take advantage of educational opportunities!

    Most trade fairs offer some educational opportunities, such as lectures on the industry’s innovations (usually featuring influential speakers/key players) or general business workshops (such as coaching). In most cases, these are included in the price of the ticket and thus, it is worth to take advantage of them. Not only will you learn something new – you will also have the chance to network with other visitors or exhibitors more closely (particularly if the workshops are organized in smaller groups).

      • Network!

    Even if you do not have any specific business-related objective, efficient networking is always an advantage. To put it simply, it is always useful to make new contacts and meet people. How can you do this effectively? Naturally, you can do this at the event itself by being genuinely interested in the given exhibitors’ product, service or idea (active listening, making eye contact, asking questions). Nonetheless, it is worth to attend the “less formal” parts of the trade show (such as dinners or cocktail parties) where you will have the chance to socialize with the exhibitors and other visitors in a more relaxed atmosphere.

      • All the small things

    It will be hard to see everything you have set out to see, so the little things do matter. For instance, make sure your hotel (or other type of accommodation) is relatively close to the venue – you don’t want to waste a whole hour on getting to the event. Some trade shows offer advice on where to stay or how to get to the convention centre in the fastest, most efficient way – make sure you check the event website for these tips!



      • Ignore what you do not know

    As mentioned at the beginning of the article, it is worth to plan some things ahead. However, you should also remember that being prejudiced is nothing good. Don’t plan everything because this way, you are unlikely to gain insight into projects you would have never considered. It is very often the case that less well-known companies offer equally interesting (and sometimes better) products or services than the ones you have come to see. Don’t waste too much time on exhibitors you find uninteresting, but stay open minded to the unknown.

      • Be shy

    A trade show is something unique and keeping to yourself will be equivalent to wasting this opportunity. Being shy at this type of event will mean meeting less people, discovering less innovations and simply learning less. The exhibitors, company representatives and trade show staff are all there to help you and nobody will find asking questions strange in any way.

      • Waste information

    Believe it or not, you can make use of every piece of information gained at the expo. Of course, as a hobbyist, you would have gained valuable influence into the industry’s innovations and you are unlikely to forget the experience if you are genuinely interested in the topic. Nonetheless, it is also very likely that you will return with lots of business cards or brochures related to projects you do not find remarkable – instead of tossing these to the side, share them with colleagues or anybody you believe would find them useful. This way, nothing is wasted!

      • Just stick to the show

    Don’t make your whole stay about the show – such events are a wonderful opportunity to visit new places and get to know the history or culture of the place. To make the most of your visit, plan the trip in such a way, so that you will have a day or two to explore the city. By strictly sticking to the expo, you often lose the chance to see the context of the show – where it is taking place and why.


    As you have hopefully concluded from the above guide, it is worth to be sufficiently prepared before attending the given trade show; this will help you to achieve any goals you might have set for yourself and ensure a wide range of practical benefits such as lower cost. Nonetheless, keep in mind that every trade fair is a very unique event and while good organization doesn’t hurt, avoid being closed-minded or too goal oriented. Inspiration often appears when we least expect it and although it is impossible to write a guide on how to be inspired, simply try to make the most of your stay by networking both officially and unofficially.