Exhibitor Advice for First-Time Attendees

With over 2,100 exhibitors at this year’s Show, first-time attendee-operators have abundant opportunities to forge valuable connections. Our Exhibitor Advisory Committee (EAC) shares invaluable advice to help newcomers maximize their interactions with potential partners. 

April 12, 2024

Sample Image of Chicago Skyline
Effectively engaging with exhibitors amidst the hustle and bustle of the Show floor requires careful planning and strategy. We sought advice from members of our Exhibitor Advisory Committee (EAC) to provide extra guidance for first timers looking to optimize quality connections and have a successful Show. Here’s what they shared: 

As an exhibitor, what advice would you give to an operator-attendee coming to the Show for the first time?
“Make a plan prior to attending the Show. Also, if possible, set up appointment times to meet with sales representatives.” 
-Paula Weeks,  The Coca-Cola Company 

“Determine what you hope to accomplish at the Show. Whether it's discovering new products, networking with industry professionals or attending educational sessions, having clear goals will help you stay focused and make the most of your experience.” 
-Kim Redmin, Shoes for Crews LLC 

What kinds of attendee interactions do you enjoy the most?
“Well, we love any and all interactions throughout the Show, but the best interactions are when attendees have time to share their successes as well as the current challenges that they need to overcome. We want to showcase (demo) solutions that cater to their specific needs and priorities.” 
-Patti-Lynn Walker, Restaurant365

“I enjoy interactions that help the attendee solve a business challenge. Far too often attendees feel like they are just going to be sold to when entering a booth.  We strive to have a conversation about their challenges and how our solutions could help solve these challenges vs going in for the hard sell.” 
-Ashley McNamara, Apex Order Pickup Solutions

What tips do you have for attendees looking to maximize their time with exhibitors?
“Familiarize yourself with the exhibitors you plan to visit. Learn about their products, services and any recent developments. This will enable you to ask informed questions and engage in meaningful conversations. Allocate a specific amount of time to spend at each booth, and don't be afraid to politely excuse yourself if a conversation isn't relevant to your goals.” 
-Kim Redmin, Shoes for Crews LLC
“Utilize the tools and resources provided by the Show team, e.g. The Show To Go. Spend some time prior to the event outlining your objectives and researching the solutions that can help alleviate the pain points in your business.”
-Patti-Lynn Walker, Restaurant365
What attitude do you think first-time attendees should have when approaching exhibitors? What should their expectations be?
“Understand that the primary goal of interacting with exhibitors is to gather information rather than making immediate purchasing decisions. Exhibitors are there to provide insights, answer questions and showcase their offerings. Recognize that tradeshow environments can be busy, and exhibitors may have limited time to engage with each attendee extensively. Some of the most valuable interactions may occur after the Show is over.”
-Kim Redmin, Shoes for Crews LLC

What pitfalls of missteps should first-timer attendees seek to avoid when it comes to interacting with exhibitors?
“The Show is so large; it can be overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
-Paula Weeks,  The Coca-Cola Company

Fill in the blank: Fruitful interactions with attendees at the Show usually look like ­­___:
“A quick exchange of thoughts and ideas, discussion on solutions to solve problems and an agreement on whether or not there is a need for a follow-up meeting after the Show.”
-Ashley McNamara, Apex Order Pickup Solutions

“Everyone is having FUN!”
-Paula Weeks,  The Coca-Cola Company

For more Show tips, check out our “Quick tips for Show Success” blog post from November.

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