Spotlight on Meetings and Conventions

How to make the most of your tradeshow presence

In order to catch up on the latest trends for conferences and conventions, network with peers, and discover fascinating host cities and suppliers, event planners often converge upon industry tradeshows.


Tradeshows are chock-full of activities, exhibitors, keynotes, which means planners, whether or not they are part of a hosted buyer program, need to be well-prepared to optimize their time at the event.

Seasoned meeting planners Celine Smith, Events Manager, GTA Marketing for KPMG, Heidi Baillie-David, Senior Buyer, Product Development Team Lead for Meridican and Robyn Abbey, President at Chriselle Management Inc. share their top tips to make the most of your presence at a tradeshow.

Establish your needs

While planners generally benefit from attending tradeshows, it is important to remember that there is a substantial investment in time and money involved.

To maximize the ROI, event planners should, above all, determine their needs. Are you looking for new destinations or suppliers? Then, make sure that the tradeshow’s exhibitor list is varied and interesting for what you are looking for. Hungry for innovative ideas for event concepts or looking to enhance your business services in some way? A tradeshow with lots of conferences and workshops may be a better choice.

Align your strategy with your goals


Once you have figured out your goals for attending a tradeshow, do your research. Start by identifying what tools are at your disposal. Does the tradeshow have an app or is its website your main go-to source for information?

Take a look at the exhibitor list and floor plans as soon as they are available and jot down which exhibitors you would like to meet. See if you can either reach out to the exhibitors to set up meetings ahead of time or use the scheduling features on the tradeshow’s app to do so. Prioritize the keynotes, breakout sessions and workshops you really must attend and those that would be nice to attend. Start filling in your calendar to prepare a balanced schedule—both in terms of what you need to see and the walking distance to get there!

Another caveat to keep in mind. First, don’t cram your tradeshow schedule. Leave buffers in case meetings last longer. Save time for “simply” wandering the show for exhibitors or other tradeshow activities that may be initially off your radar. Add any social or after-hours events that could prove to be invaluable from a networking perspective.

Stay focused and don’t forget your well-being


During tradeshows, everyone is out for your attention; there are so many gimmicks out there to draw you in for a presentation or demo, such as food, entertainment, massages, swag, free tickets…The list can go on and on. While it is fine to have a bit of fun, remember that these types of stratagems can cause you to lose focus and mess up with your schedule.

Furthermore, as any event planner knows, tradeshows can be exhausting! Apart from keeping your schedule sane, pack comfortable clothing and shoes. Scout out healthy eating options at the event. Get enough R&R so that you kick off each morning invigorated and alert. Whenever you can, ask vendors to email you their brochures and other documentation so that you don’t have to lug piles of paper around, which can be detrimental to both your day-long posture—and the luggage weight restrictions when flying home!

Make follow-ups a priority

Once home, initiate your post-show strategy as soon as possible while everything is fresh in your mind. Figure out next steps with regards to the meetings you had, draft your reports and share critical information with your team or clients. While returning from a trip means that you’ll be most likely thrust back into the throes of your day-to-day work, don’t just relegate your tradeshow follow-ups to a few weeks or months down the line.

Tradeshows are intended to provide planners with an array of solutions so that they can up their event games in the future. Spend time planning and you’ll discover just how much of a better tradeshow experience you can have!

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