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Conference Checklist: Planning Ahead

Hundreds or thousands of colleagues in-person; the latest technology to see first hand, to touch, ask questions, see how it works; information from experts in your industry who are implementing the cutting-edge processes you want to know more about — there are a host of reasons as to why we want to attend trade shows.

With all the people in one place to meet with, it has the potential to be a big bang for your buck. You can meet with customers to continue to build on those relationships, there are potential buyers you can introduce yourself to, there are colleagues you can learn from and others you can help as a mentor to establish yourself in the industry.

Whether you're at an agency or with a supplier, see the latest and greatest from a variety of exhibitors keeps us all abreast of the latest trends in the industry and helps us focus on where we need to go next.

It's easy for it to get lost in the shuffle of the day-to-day tasks, but determining which shows to attend and how much is put in to each show takes careful planning and often starts up to 12 months in advance. With show attendance being a large investment, careful planning provides you with the biggest return on investment.

With several emails coming in each day promoting the latest and greatest show for bus transit or alternative fuels or digital signage or smart growth or high-speed rail ... it can be overwhelming to narrow the list down.

A trade show marketing plan will help you identify where you need to be and what you need at each location. With some shows focusing on information sharing, some on selling or buying, it's important to plan out your objectives so you know you're accomplishing what you set out to do.

Where to find what shows you should be at? For suppliers you just have to look at where your competitors and customers are. If they're there, you will want to be, too. You want to make sure you're presence is known and your company is out there to make the face-to-face contact. For agencies, talking to your colleagues in the industry will provide the insight as to what shows they find most valuable. There are also a variety of show or event listings, like the one on our Web site at that you can scan for shows you may not yet be aware of.

When you find shows that may be of interest, do the research to see if it's where you need to be. Often times, when you contact the show organizers you can get a variety of information from past shows. Attendance lists, vendor lists, sponsor lists and programs provide you with how big the show is, what information you can expect to hear about, who else is there and what you can expect to see. Your success depends on knowing what to expect from the show and having your clear objectives planned out in advance.

When making plans, it's important to plan for pre-show marketing, at-show marketing and the follow up. You'll want to put the word out that you're participating at a particular show to make the most of it; you'll have to figure out the game plan if you're displaying, presenting or walking the show; and you need a plan in place ahead of time of how you'll use the attendance list and your contacts you made once you return back from the show.

With so many facets of conferences, from designing the most effective booth display to developing a paper for presenting or effective strategies for walking a show floor, we're looking to provide you with helpful information each month that will help you make the most of your conference attendance, whether an attendee, exhibitor or presenter. If you have specific topics you would like to see addressed, or you have a topic you would like to contribute on, be sure to let me know!