Use Trade Shows to Leverage Your Career

April 7, 2005
Going to Interphex or another industry show? Don't just attend -- work it to your advantage. Here are all the tips you need, as well as a trade show checklist, courtesy of our resident career expert JoAnn Hines.
By JoAnn R. Hines,’s Resident Career Expert"Oh, no, not another trade show!" Stop that thought! You should be saying, "Great, another career opportunity!"Your most important asset in your career is you. As such, you need to continually increase the value of that asset. One of the best ways is to increase your knowledge, and trade shows are perfect for that. Here are some tips for accessing that knowledge:
  1. Work the floor. See who and what is on exhibit. Come away from the show with a full understanding of who does what in terms of products and services.

  2. Attend the seminars. Most shows have several conference tracks, and Interphex is no exception. Be sure to include healthy doses of one or more conference tracks in your agenda. Make a point to introduce yourself to speakers, to exchange ideas and business cards. Be sure to follow up after the show.

  3. Meet colleagues and new contacts off site. This is a great way to build relationships and network in a more informal atmosphere.
Whether you are a trade show rookie or a seasoned veteran, the cold hard truth is that preparing for a trade show properly is hard work. However, the benefits you reap make it well worth the effort. So, get your business cards (lots of them), prepare your “elevator” pitch, and get ready to improve your career. A few suggestions for preparing and maximizing your time:
  • Make a list of people who you would like to see. Set up meetings in advance, but don’t set a rigid schedule since trade shows tend to operate informally. If you are working a booth, send out invitations to colleagues and contacts announcing when you will be there. Email them to remind them to meet you.

  • Always carry business cards and company literature with you. You never know who you might bump into.

  • When you attend sessions and seminars, go early and stay late. Meet presenters and other attendees. Note: Big shots usually show up the first official day of the show, unless they are scheduled to speak at other times.

  • Don't spend a lot of time on long conversations. Introduce yourself. (Give your 10-second “elevator” pitch.) Exchange business cards. Write some notes on the back of their card about your conversation and move on.

  • Carry a camera. If you meet someone important, have a picture taken together. It could be a real door opener for you.

  • At some point, stop at the show management booth. Introduce yourself and your company. Offer opinions on the show and programs. Volunteer to be quoted or to have your photo taken for future promotional materials.

  • After the show, maximize your memories and knowledge. Write a summary of what you accomplished. Include copies of business cards and photos. Note any insightful information you gained at the show. Distribute copies of your summary to your boss and anyone else who didn’t attend.

  • Write a personal press release for friends and business contacts announcing that you attended the show. If you were a speaker, received an award, or were showcased at the show, play it up. (Note: Pre-show releases are possible, too.)
The most important thing you should come away with from the show is contacts! Network, network, network. Capitalize on the opportunities the show presents and improve your career and your visibility.

  • Prepare in advance.

  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. (Walking/jogging shoes are acceptable now.)

  • Have the necessary business tools, cards, literature, and camera at hand.

  • Sign up for or gather as much information as you can. Sort and discard unnecessary literature in your hotel room at night.

  • Get copies of all trade publications and fill out subscription cards.

  • Notify your colleagues of your show location and schedule meetings.

  • Keep good notes throughout the show.

  • Write a post show report and press release.
About the AuthorJoAnn Hines "packages" people. She makes it easy for others to transform their careers in much the same way she did. Her "how to" workbooks, informative articles, and tutorials demonstrate the steps to take career and professional development to the next level. Hines believes in the power of her experience and advice. As a result, much of her advice is free or is offered for a nominal charge. To learn the ropes and "Package Yourself" for success, email her at [email protected].