Work The Room

Exhibitors are critical to the success and continuation of annual conferences. Without their financial participation, support and sponsorship, the funding to conduct the entire program would be severely impacted. Their support is so critical that, without them, you probably could not afford to attend the conference because of the increased cost.

Shopping For Products

If you don’t have any particular product you want to see on the floor, start in one corner of the exhibit hall and work your way down each aisle in a methodical way. Stop by the booths with products that you know you will need in the near future, but also stop in the booths with items you think you will never use. The one you will never use may be the one your boss wants you to look into two months from now.

You don’t have to spend much time in each booth, just enough to drop off a business card, obtain a business card and some information, and chat for a few minutes.

When searching for specific items or vendors, do a fast tour of the entire floor, scope out the booths in which you are interested, and then come back and spend more time with them. Or spend three hours on opening night cruising the floor and seeing where everything is, and then come back the next day and spend serious time with the vendors you really want to see.

As you develop more friends and contacts in this business, you will also find that six hours is not enough time to “work the floor” because you will spend much of the time socializing.

Gather The Goodies

Do you remember that earlier thought about keeping your hands free? Several booths will have a shopping bag or small backpack as a giveaway item. Find one of these early in order to fill them with promotional information and other giveaway items.

I have more can coolies and coffee mugs than I can count, but I remember who gave them to me every morning when I take a mug from the cupboard. Having you remember that specific vendor is one of an exhibitor’s main goals.

There will be playground pieces to climb on, putting contests to enter, wheels-of-fortune to spin and a myriad of other “come ons” to get your attention. Play every one! It is there to enjoy. These are great ways to interact with peers and the exhibitors, and you can win some interesting prizes.

By the time it’s over, your feet and back will be sore from walking, you will be losing your voice, you have a shopping bag full of information to review, and the pocket full of your business cards has been replaced by a pocket full of exhibitors’ cards. You have met a group of new people who look forward to seeing you again. Congratulations! You are now a successful trade-show-floor traveler.

Jack Mathison is the assistant director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts for the city of Hollywood, Fla. He can be reached via e-mail at

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