Convention(al) Wisdom

Cailley Hammel Headshot
photo of Las Vegas skyline
Bellemedia |

We’re on the brink of IPSPE and the trade show season, and you know what that means: it’s once again time to pack your bags and head to a convention hall bursting with aisle after aisle of vendors large and small, all of whom hope to have a few minutes of your time.

Whether you’re a newbie at the show or a convention hall veteran, here’s a reminder of what you should keep in mind on the trade show floor.

Make a Game Plan

The show floor is a spectacle of crowds, sound and eye-catching products, and it’s easy to get distracted. So before you jump on a plane or hit the road, take a close look at the exhibitor list (you can look for the PSP exhibitor list at the official show site,, or in next month’s AQUA) and note which booths you’d like to visit.

After you have your list, prioritize it according to “musts” and “maybes.” Order each section numerically, and you now have an easy, efficient route to follow on the floor.

But don’t stop there. In the weeks leading up to the show, make sure you have your registration prepared and hotels booked. (Visit for special offers on nearby hotels.)

Finally, if you’d like to have a one-on-one with an exhibitor, take time to schedule an appointment in advance.

Establish Goals

Trade shows are what you make of them. With that in mind, be sure to set specific goals for what you want to achieve with your visit. Are you looking to find a new automatic pool cleaner to carry? Interested in swapping chemical lines or finding tools to streamline your business operations? Make a list of what you want to accomplish and communicate those goals to everyone attending with you.

All Together Now

If you can afford to, consider bringing members of your staff with you and make it a team trip. First and foremost, having others around (especially experienced managers) allows you to delegate tasks and take a “divide and conquer” approach.

However, also consider taking younger staff members with you as well. From seminars and mixers to the show floor itself, trade shows present an invaluable opportunity for rookies to learn the industry from the inside out — think of it as an investment in their (and your) future.

Dress the Part

According to Exhibitor, a publication for the trade show industry, the average trade show attendee will spend seven to eight hours on a show floor over a period of two to three days. That doesn’t include the walking you’ll do to and from your room and any exploring you do off the clock.

The point is, you’ll be doing quite a bit of walking and standing. The least you can do is wear decent shoes.

Don’t Be a Wallflower

Trade shows are as much about meeting new people as they are about finding new products to carry. Luckily, networking is as easy as sitting at the hotel bar or attending one of the trade show mixers. Be open to meeting people everywhere you go, you never know what may come of it. (And don’t forget your business cards.)

Come Prepared

Bring the basics: pens, a notebook or laptop for notes and plenty of business cards. And remember, days are long at trade shows, and sometimes, food is far. Pack some kind of fuel to keep you going. (Granola bars or apples are perfect.)

Don’t Forget the Outskirts

You may make a point of seeing the big booths at a show, but don’t forget to walk along the outer edges of the show floor — that’s where you often find newer, inventive products from smaller brands.

Keep Your Cool

With so many booths and the excitement of the trade show bustle in the air, it’s easy to get carried away and make buying decisions too quickly. Pace yourself, consider the inventory you have and what you need and, when looking at a new product, order small amounts to minimize your risk. You can make a bigger commitment down the line.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Now more than ever before, tech rules the trade show. If you have a smartphone or tablet, be sure to use social media to keep up with the show (, @PoolSpaPatio and #PoolSpaPatio) and exhibiting manufacturers for special offers, promotions and events - some of which are only mentioned in social media. And if your company has social media pages, don’t forget to do a post or two about what you’re up to; telling (and showing) your customers you’re off at an industry event heightens your credibility and professional image.

Social media aside, don’t overlook the simple functions of your cell phone to help you stay organized. For example, use the calendar feature of your phone to record your appointments and seminars, and schedule alerts to keep you on track.

Have a Good Time

Like family reunions, trade shows can be a little hectic and draining, but it’s the one time of year everyone you know is in the same place. Do what you need to do, but make time to enjoy the city and bond with your employees.

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