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Trade show survival tips from the pros

This is the third installment in a three-part series on tips and tricks for attending ProMat 2011. Modern surveyed some long-time show attendees to see how you can make the most of ProMat 2011. Here are some of the best show survival tips.
By Sara Pearson Specter, Editor at Large
March 08, 2011

George Prest: Chief Operating Officer of the Material Handling Industry of America with 30 years of experience both in managing and owning materials handling manufacturing companies. 
• Have a plan of attack.
• Study the plan of the show floor and map out your target exhibitors.
• Make sure you understand the segmentation of the show floor. This will help you find a booth if you need to go back because the person you wanted to see wasn’t available the first time around.
• Bring plenty of business cards for those chance encounters and networking opportunities.
• Wear a good pair of walking shoes and don’t worry about fashion. This is opportunity time and you need to be on your toes!
• Having a couple of energy bars in your pocket is always a good idea, as time goes by fast and you may find that lunchtime blew right by.

Brad Moore: Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Swisslog Logistics and vice chairman of the Automated Storage/Retrieval Systems industry group of the Material Handling Industry of America. 
• Plan ahead. Set appointments with the folks you must meet with at show.
• Map your route (determining booths you must see at the show in advance).
• Take a quick walk of the entire show when first arriving and add any new booths/exhibits to your mapped route.
• Stick to your plan.

Sarah Carlson: Marketing Director for Jervis B. Webb Co. and Daifuku America and vice chair of the Automatic Guided Vehicle Systems (AGVS) industry group of the Material Handling Industry of America.
• Limit what you carry at the show. Walking around the show can be exhausting enough without having to carry a heavy coat and laptop. In terms of literature, most exhibitors will e-mail you brochures after the show. In fact, attendees can scan in a bar code and download our brochures on their smart phones in our booth. And if you’re somebody who loves free promotional items, pick them up at the end of the day.
• Eat lunch later. All of the restaurants are packed at lunchtime, which means you have to stand and wait in line. I eat a big breakfast so I can delay my lunch until 1:30 p.m. or 2 p.m.
• Try to walk or stand on the carpeting inside the booths versus the aisles. We pay extra to have thick padding in our booth since we are standing on it all day. If I have to walk across the hall, I usually walk through the booths to give my legs a break. Also, sit whenever possible (although it’s tough to get up!).
• If you are hoping to meet with someone in particular, schedule an appointment. We rotate our sales staff throughout the day to give them breaks. Therefore, they may not be in our booth when you visit.
• Unless you are used to standing on concrete, your feet will be sore at the end of day. I stretch my feet by rocking back and forth on my tiptoes. If that doesn’t help, a glass of wine or two will always do the trick!

John Hill: Vice President of TranSystems, a veteran of 40 years of materials handling trade shows. 
• Although the Spring Equinox occurs on March 20, the day before the show opens, be prepared for one more wintry assault. After all, it’s Chicago.
• Wear comfortable shoes. McCormick Place is enormous and with two shows in one (ProMat & Automate 2011), there’ll be a lot of walking to do. 
• Don’t forget your business cards.
• Prepare a show plan for yourself. Don’t wander. Identify what and who you want to see and then access MHIA’s show Web site, to id,entify the companies and booth locations you want to visit.
• While on the Web site, take a look at the array of educational sessions available through the week. Keynotes on Monday and Tuesday, educational tracks on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, and some 80 on-floor seminars Monday through Wednesday offer something for everyone.
• If possible, bring one or two of your colleagues with you, sharing the load and periodically convening to identify booths that all should visit.
• If you can only attend for one or two days and do not have a particular educational session that you want to attend, pick Wednesday and/or Thursday. The traffic on the floor tends to be lighter, and you’ll get more attention from booth personnel.
• If you have specific questions that you’d like to have answered, consider contacting the supplier before the show to see if an appointment with the right person can be arranged on a specific day. It could save you a significant amount of time.
• If you do not have a specific requirement or project in mind, you will still want to do some homework. Grab a floor plan off the show Web site. Note that it’s broken into three exhibit sections: a Manufacturing & Assembly Solutions Center, an IT Solutions Center, and a Fulfillment & Delivery Solutions Center. Depending upon your interests, you may want to do a quick walk through each of the areas and then determine which deserves more of your attention. Note also that interactive kiosks on the show floor will be available for your queries.
• If you have a question for an exhibitor, ask it—don’t be hesitant or timid. You can always politely move on if the response you receive doesn’t meet your expectations.

Cheryl Falk: vice president of marketing communications for Dematic. 
• Utilize technology to maximize your ProMat experience – search the ProMat Web site for the technology you seek and identify exhibits that offer hands on demos addressing your business pain points.
• Experience “live” technology – take advantage of exhibits showcasing technology in action and experience a bird’s eye view of solutions at work.
• Identify solution providers delivering thought leadership – search for solution providers delivering information and additional resources focused on your current business challenges i.e. whitepapers, educational events, state-of-the-art technology, etc.
• Have fun – enjoy the exhibits, enjoy peer networking, enjoy Chicago.

ProMat 2011 will be held March 21 - 24, 2011 at McCormick Place South in Chicago. The tradeshow will showcase the latest manufacturing, distribution and supply chain solutions in the material handling and logistics industry.

Read all of Modern’s ProMat 2011 coverage



About the Author

Sara Pearson Specter
Editor at Large

Sara Pearson Specter has written articles and supplements for Modern Materials Handling and Material Handling Product News as an Editor at Large since 2001. Specter has worked in the fields of graphic design, advertising, marketing, and public relations for nearly 20 years, with a special emphasis on helping business-to-business industrial and manufacturing companies. She owns her own marketing communications firm, Sara Specter, Marketing Mercenary LLC. Clients include companies in a diverse range of fields, including materials handing equipment, systems and packaging, professional and financial services, regional economic development and higher education. Specter graduated from Centre College in Danville, Ky. with a bachelor’s degree in French and history. She lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley where she and her husband are in the process of establishing a vineyard and winery.

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