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Rena PattonMay 21, 2019 9:29:00 AM2 min read

How to Network Your First Trade Show as an Exhibitor

While you’re exhibiting—especially at your first show—it can be hard to get the full networking experience. Your focus will most likely be on your company's booth, your staff and your overall logistics, which may hinder your ability to visit as many exhibits, attend as many events, or spend as much time talking to each new person or company you encounter.

Still, that doesn’t mean networking is impossible when you’re an exhibitor, even if it is your first time on the floor. All it takes is a little pre-planning, some well-allocated resources and some good old grit and determination. Establishing meaningful (and profitable) connections is totally doable—no matter how strapped for time (or resources) you might feel.

Ready to make the most of your show’s networking opportunities without taking away from your booth? Here’s how:

1. Team Trade Off

Properly staffing your booth is key if you want to get out and network. It's good practice to have at least two rotating crews of booth staff, as this allows every team member the chance to walk around, visit other booths and make connections with visitors and exhibitors beyond your immediate space.

That said, if you can’t afford to bring on two full teams, one team plus two “floaters” is an ideal alternative. These extra team members will provide booth support while you or other key staff members hit up a networking event or function.

2. Take Advantage of After-Hours Events

Trade shows are rife with networking opportunities—and not just during business hours. Agendas often include meet-and-greets before the show, happy hours after the show, evening karaoke nights, luncheons, send-off brunches and more; so take advantage of these events as often as you can. If anything overlaps, consider assigning certain staff members to different activities so you can cover more ground as a team.

3. At Your Booth

Make the most of your time by engaging with your booth visitors. Authentically connect and learn about about them by asking questions, such as:

  • Who are they and where do they come from?
  • What are the struggles and hurdles their company is dealing with and trying to solve?
  • How could you mutually benefit each other?
  • Treat every booth visitor as an opportunity, and engage accordingly.

4. Leverage Your Downtime

Sitting in the cafeteria for lunch? Talk to your table-mates. Heading down the street for coffee? Ask your booth neighbors if they want to tag along. Hitching an Uber back to the hotel? Offer to share a ride with your fellow attendees at the curb.

These might not be official trade show events, but they’re a great way to make memorable one-on-one connections with other visitors and exhibitors on the scene.

5. Choose Your "Must-Meets"

Well before the show, head to the event’s website and print off a full list of attendees and exhibitors. Go through it line by line, and designate your “must-meets”—the people you absolutely, hands-down have to interact with when you’re at the show. These priorities will guide your networking efforts once the event rolls around and will ensure you make the most of your limited time and resources.

Need more help honing your trade show strategy? Want to make sure your displays do the heavy lifting for you? Contact us today.