Actually, it’s more like 10,000,000 steps, or at least it will feel like that by the end of the second day. Being prepared for the SHOT Show, or any large trade show means more than the obvious getting registered and having a place to lay your head at night. Any trade show, and especially SHOT, requires tactical planning. Especially, since you are most likely attending with a specific mission in mind; find new products to stock at your store, meet with buyers, track down the latest and greatest in new firearms for your publication or blog. So, let’s assume you’ve already covered the basics – transport, shelter, tickets – now, what you need to consider to make this SHOT Show, or any trade show, a raging success.
1) Set up meetings prior to the show. Hopefully, you’ve done that by now. You’ve reviewed the exhibitor list and tagged the exhibitors you need to meet. SHOT Show has made this process simple with the SHOT Show Planner. Sign up for the Planner, create a profile so exhibitors can respond back to you and go shopping! Reach out to exhibitors, add to the planner and schedule meetings. OR if you already have an “in,” make sure you have called ahead, set up your meeting and verify with your contact prior to the meeting.
2) Set up meetings WITH THE FLOOR PLAN IN MIND. Yeah, this suggestion comes from experience. Nothing like having 5 minutes to go down to another level and over a mile or two to get to your next meeting. Plan for 30 minutes in between meetings to get there, take a pit stop, say hi to a friend in passing. You’ll arrive not looking desperate or about to have a heart attack. Not good for business.
3) Have your business ready. Business cards – with current info and without pocket lint or sweat marks. Elevator speech – especially important – Industry mentor of Laura Burgess Marketing, Shooting Industry Editor, Russ Thurman, once told me that if I couldn’t tell him about my new product in 5 minutes, I’d lose his attention. Of course, his statement implied that if I couldn’t get excited about my new product and deliver a compelling 5-minute speech, then his readership wouldn’t either and would turn the page. Don’t lose their attention. Make your initial statement the most important sentence you’ll say all day. Leave Fluffy Stuff at home.
4) Ask for their business card. Granted, you may have made the initial connection, or know the person, but did you know your old friend that you meet with every year now has a new title? A new phone number? Scribble any key info on the back of the card as a gentle reminder for later when you are back in your room nursing your feet with a bag of ice.
5) Back up batteries and battery charger. My good friend Barbara Baird, editor of the Women’s Outdoor News, has saved my you-know-what several times; paint ball (that’s another story) and at Make Big Noise, the annual LBM event. Nothing like having your iPhone run out of battery when it’s your show! She carries a small back up battery charger in her purse and it was a life saver during our event. Now, I carry one. Always.
6) Hydrate. Before, during and after. And I don’t mean one whiskey, one scotch and one beer, either. You are going to be on your feet all day. You are in the desert. It is winter. The Sands will have its big moisture-sucking air conditioning raging. If you don’t hydrate with good old H2O, you are likely to get a headache, become extremely tired, speak with thick tongue and not make it to the evening festivities because you’ll have passed out in some forlorn hallway. Hydrate. I need not say more. Besides, it fills in your wrinkles.
7) Wear comfortable shoes or have a Jazzy as backup. There is one woman I have ever know that could defy this suggestion. I won’t give any names, but Anita would wear the most beautiful, sexy high heels for every painful day of the show and never break a smile. Only a few can claim that crown, for the rest of it, keep it comfortable and have Band-Aid’s as back-up (or the Jazzy).
8) Update your business notes and calendar daily. Take a little down time every day to stretch out in your room. Hydrate yourself and update your calendar and take notes of what’s happened during the day. Check your email. Call the family. Keep your clutter to a minimum. Then, your first day back at work, you can get to work instead of digging out.
9) Make sure to follow up and thank people in a timely manner. Ever since I moved south, this traditional southern gesture of writing “thank-you’s” is more that just the polite thing to do, it reaffirms you and your business in the minds of potential customers or vendors. Thank them for meeting up with you. Tell them you understand their time is limited and important and you appreciate the meeting. Restate the conclusion to your meeting – “I will execute a purchase order this week” or “I’ve put our store’s FFL in the mail to your attention.” Make sure your full contact information is included.
10) Have fun! Yes, shows, especially SHOT Show is a very daunting experience, but by following several simple suggestions, you can get your business done, make new relationships and enjoy a little Elvis time in Vegas. Just remember what goes on in Vegas at SHOT Show will stay with you the rest of your career!