Dos and don’ts of trade shows

Nine things to make editors’ trade show experience easier.

Trade show season always means long workdays for editors both before and during the show. Before the show requires much planning, and editors receive a surge in emails from exhibitors asking them to “stop by the booth!” During the show editors are given hefty to-do lists: send out e-newsletters, attend press conferences, make videos, meet with industry professionals, visit exhibitor booths post content to the website and much more. The load is even heftier if a magazine has a booth at the show or is hosting events during the trade show.

All too often, editors stress over the chaos of trade show season – why not change that in 2018? A trade show is always going to be busy, but here are a few dos and don’ts to help make the trade show experience a little easier:

Do: Prioritize the schedule. All editors have a long list of “to-dos” during trade shows. While it’s great to hit everything on that list, sometimes it’s impossible due to time restraints, cancelations or lack of internet connection at the convention center. So, when planning your upcoming trade show, divvy up your “to-do” list into “musts” (essential things to cover at the show) and “wants” (things you’d like to get to but aren’t essential). Try to do all of the things you “must” do and only go to the “wants” on your list if you find yourself with some extra time. A final note on this: be flexible to change what you need to prioritize at a show. For example, if breaking news happens in the industry you cover, be open to changing the schedule to get the news out if that would be more of a priority for your publication.

Don’t: Try doing everything yourself. B-2-B magazines tend to have small staffs, but most have two to three editors on the team. If you are the only one going to a trade show to represent your magazine, be sure to communicate with others on your team while you’re there if you need help. For instance, if you are having issues posting content to the website, perhaps ask an editor back in the office to do it for you. Also, if a few editors are attending the same trade show, split up responsibilities evenly before going to the show and communicate about it so everyone has a manageable workload.

Shows provide a great opportunity for networking with your audience and advertisers.
Shows provide a great opportunity for networking with your audience and advertisers.

Do: Get a full night’s rest every night at the show. It might feel near impossible to get a full night’s sleep at some trade shows. The workday is much longer, stretching from as early as 7 a.m. to midnight, if you include networking events on the schedule. Plus, there’s pressure of sending newsletters, posting videos or writing blogs. It’s great to get the most out of the show, but it won’t be great if you don’t get any sleep. Always make room in the schedule to get 6-8 hours of sleep.

This might mean getting strategic, too. If one editor on your team is meeting with an advertiser from 9 p.m. to midnight on Monday but also has a breakfast networking event scheduled at 7 a.m. the next morning, check to see if another editor on the team can take one of those responsibilities or nix the less important one out of the schedule altogether.

Don’t: Overdo it at networking events. Trade shows are great for networking. They are great for meeting with your readers and advertisers to show them your expertise on the trade. However, when going to cocktail hours or evening networking parties, keep the drinking in check. First, you don’t want your team to appear “sloppy” to readers and advertisers – so know your team members’ limits. Second, you don’t want anyone on your team to feel overly tired the next morning. In general, it’s good to have a drink with industry members to show you have a personable side, but all editors and their teams need to be smart about this.

Do: Check your packing list. Amid planning for all the show coverage, it can be easy to forget the little things such as packing essentials. I tend to be forgetful, so I like to make a short list of packing items the night before I go. Some things easily forgotten due to busyness: business cards, notebooks, pens, batteries, chargers and registration information.

Tradeshow floors can be huge. Packing comfortable footwear for long hours on your feet is a must.
Trade show floors can be huge. Packing comfortable footwear for long hours on your feet is a must.

Don’t: Dress inappropriately. If it’s your first time covering a new trade show, check the dress code. Are you expected to wear suit and tie? Business casual? Jeans and golf shirt? Check with your team on what’s expected before going or you may have to make some last-minute purchases while on the road. I once made the mistake of assuming the dress code at a show I covered, only to find myself the next morning in a Las Vegas hotel gift shop attempting to purchase expensive khakis. Also, given there’s much walking required at trade shows, wear comfortable yet appropriate shoes. This might mean investing in comfortable dress shoes, but in the long-run it’s worth it.

Do: Book a hotel close to the trade show. Taxi, Uber and Lyft ride costs can drastically drive up your expense reports during trade shows, so why not pick a hotel that’s within walking distance to the convention center? Some hotels also provide shuttles to convention centers, so those are also good selections. Also, book well in advance to make sure the best hotels aren’t already picked over – especially in high-traffic cities where multiple events or conventions may be going on at the same time.

Think outside of the box for show coverage. Is the product featured in a press release being shown on the floor? Go grab in-person photos or video of it to spice up your content.
Think outside of the box for show coverage. Is the product featured in a press release being shown on the floor? Go grab in-person photos or video of it to spice up your content.

Don’t: Forget to eat and drink. With busy show schedules, it can be easy to forget or neglect the little things in life like eating lunch and hydrating. Always leave at least a 30-minute window in your agenda to sit down and grab lunch. If you’re crammed for time, consider using meal times as an opportunity to do in-person interviews or network with other professionals – but make sure to eat in the process. Also, it’s a good idea to carry a water bottle to the show floor, as dehydration will only lead to tiredness by the end of the day.

Do: Think outside the box. It’s easy to simply cover the press events and post the same old content to your website when covering a trade show. Yet this is lazy reporting. Think outside the box when at a trade show. It’s a great place to generate new content for your magazine. I always like to make a list of potential feature stories we can do at the end of a trade show, usually gathered based on the buzz at the show, educational seminars, speeches and some trends at press conferences or booths on the show floor. Also, get creative with how you share content from the show. Try to use video, photos and lists instead of rehashing press releases when you cover the event.

Megan Smalley is an Associate Editor at Lawn & Landscape Magazine. She is a member of ASBPE’s Cleveland chapter.

Megan Smalley

Megan Smalley is associate editor for the Recycling Today Media Group at Cleveland-based GIE Media Inc. She focuses on writing, editing and podcasting for Recycling Today magazine. She has been with GIE Media since 2017 in several positions, including associate editor for Lawn & Landscape magazine and managing editor for Recycling Today magazine. She has been working in B2B media in the Cleveland area since 2014. She received a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from Kent State University in May 2014.

Smalley previously served on the executive committee of the ASBPE National Board of Directors, and she is involved in ASBPE’s social, website and education committees.

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