Tree Talk: The Value of the Trade Show Circuit

Trade Show Value

The New Year brings expectations for new ideas; bigger, better and bolder concepts; and fresh insight on how to bring your products to the forefront. One simple solution to obtain as much information as possible, and therefore gain the leading edge against your competitors, is to attend a trade show. Prospective and veteran business owners have the next 11 months to plan and join other foodservice professionals. There are various shows that cater to specialized segments of the industry. Here are some suggestions for planning your personal trade show schedule:

Trade Show Value

Identify Any Limitations

  1. With rising costs, travel budget may be an issue. Considering the number of shows offered nationwide, your chances of a show being held near you is high.
  2. Time is always a factor. Review the list of exhibitors, plan your time carefully and stick to your plan when attending the show.
  3. To reduce costs even further, complimentary tickets may be available. Contact your participating distributor for more information.

If travel is not in your budget, you can still catch up with all the latest news by accessing trade show Web sites and requesting their trade show daily. These sites list the exhibitors and any featured speakers and their topics.

Define Your Main Goal

  1. Are you looking to find fresh ideas to increase your present menu? Explore the larger shows that incorporate various segments and exhibitors. Several ideas can be gathered from just one show.
  2. Are you looking for new concepts? Larger shows attract a more diverse and global list of exhibitors, which allows attendees to see many new ideas, including the next big thing. Seeing how the attendees react to a product may help you find insight into your own customers’ reactions.
  3. Regional shows are not as widely publicized as the national shows but still showcase suppliers and exhibitors who are active in your area. Attending these shows increases your awareness of regional suppliers, while giving you the opportunity to network with regional business owners.

Plan Your Time at the Exhibit

  1. The next step is to select the exhibitors and consult their Web sites. Many Web sites will offer insight into their history, products and services, allowing you to choose which companies justify further exploration.
  2. Using online resources, the exhibit floor plan can be used to map your plan of attack. Locate your focal exhibitors on the floor plan and research any exhibitors that are located in the connecting path.
  3. Make notes and take notes. Preshow product research should give you enough of an understanding to qualify the exhibitor as a “stop” or “pass booth,” as a way to better utilize your time. Make notes with questions or areas of interest, enhancing your time with the exhibitor. Take notes of your conversation with the exhibitors and collect business cards. To make it easy to receive information from the exhibitors, bring business cards or make a sheet of labels with your contact information, including e-mail and phone, guaranteeing that the exhibitors will follow up with you after.

If possible, consider attending at least one trade show that is exclusive to products you’re interested in. Since these specialized shows focus on a specific product or segment, the amount of information, instruction and market awareness available with the small cost of general admission is well worth it. Consult the Events Calendar (p. 3) for the upcoming events listing or visit