If I accepted every invitation to attend, exhibit at or sponsor all the different trade fairs, exhibitions and conferences I am sent details for, then I would rarely have time to actually do my job. In most industries there are plenty of trade events in the calendar which provide opportunities to meet your fellow professionals. However, in today’s digital age, are trade fairs and conferences still relevant when it is easy to ‘meet’ over Skype, Webex or other online methods?

It is probably sensible not to group conferences with trade fairs because they are different types of events entirely. Trade fairs provide an excellent opportunity for a buyer or other interested party to review the different suppliers and products in the marketplace. If you are exhibiting at a trade fair, it is an important chance to meet existing customers and hopefully meet new contacts and secure orders.

Conferences provide an opportunity to meet and listen to presentations or seminars from industry experts and peers. A good conference will have a packed agenda full of knowledgeable and interesting speakers discussing new concepts and ideas that are relevant to the audience.

Both types of events are still relevant and key staff from almost all businesses will find huge benefit in including the most important trade events in their calendar.

To make the most of a trade fair or a conference, planning and research is vital. A company may have spent 12 months with these kind of events in their diary and take on considerable expense with exhibition space, hotels, flights or travel and expenses during the event yet they simply turn up and expect to have great success. If a company is exhibiting at a trade fair, they must try and have a full schedule of appointments from prospective customers and existing contacts. This could be the one time of the year that so many prospective customers are in one place at the same time and it is essential that as many as possible spend time on your stand. Likewise, if a visitor to trade fair does not take the time to research the event, there is a good chance they could miss something important. Always take the time to review and research the exhibitor list. I always print off the floor plan of the exhibition floor and highlight all the exhibitors I know I must visit. I use this to map out my attendance and if possible contact the must see exhibitors to arrange a meeting time to ensure I’ll have someone with the time to talk to me.

Conferences are different but a similar level of preparation will ensure the maximum benefit taken from the day(s). Often with conferences, there may be two or more halls and different sets of speakers in each. Research the speakers and their topics for discussion so that you can assess the relevance to your business. These days, conference organisers can arrange for digital versions of the individual seminars for a small cost. This is very useful if the schedules result in two must-attend seminars timed to clash with each other.

It’s better to go well prepared to a couple of events and get the most out of them then attend many events and not take the chance to maximise the business opportunities available at each event.

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