Visiting trade shows

Note: this is posted while I’m walking around on the floor of the IMTS trade show in Chicago, IL.
When trying to decide if you’re going to a trade show, there are lots things to take into consideration. How far is it? How much will it cost to stay there? How long will you be gone? What is it you expect to get out of the show? It’s this last question that I find interesting and want to talk about today.

Research at trade shows

If you’re going to a show for work, chances are you’ll have to justify the costs and time to your boss. One of the primary reasons people give in their justification is “research”. Sell it as looking for new production equipment or a solution to a nagging problem and it’s likely you’ll get approval to go. However, given how pervasive the web is, you could almost as easily do this research online from the comfort of your office, which is much more cost-effective for your employer.

Networking at trade shows

Other people might suggest “networking” as a reason. You’re going to meet your vendors and/or potential or current customers. You want to establish that one-on-one personal connection. On the surface, this seems like a good reason, but it’s not always necessary to meet face-to-face in order to form a working relationship. Our company is a small business in the middle of Iowa, and we’ve sold machines to people without ever setting foot in their place for a demo or meeting them in person at a show. With Skype, Facebook, and email, you can have face-to-face meetings without leaving the office.

Inspiration at trade shows

What I’m hoping to get out of this visit to IMTS is inspiration. By seeing the latest and greatest in technology, I can find things that other people are doing that, while initially might not apply to what we do here, could be adapted for use in a project. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked by a booth where something is going on, and I find some aspect of the product or process that I think, “With a little tweak, I could use that on insert unique project here.” By being open-minded and not coming into the show with an agenda, I’m free to find the things that tickle that creative part of my brain.

Now, I really doubt if you tell your boss you want to take three days to travel to a trade show for “inspiration” alone that you’re going to get the travel approved. But, if you include this idea of being open to inspiration from unexpected sources, you might bring back the seed of the next big thing for your business.