Researching Employers at Trade Shows

Researching Employers at Trade Shows

Trade shows are a wealth of information and networking opportunities all in one place!

Trade shows are set up for potential buyers, but can be great for you because:

  • Massive amounts of product/service and company information are available all in one place.
  • Company employees staffing the booths expect to answer questions from and hold discussions with strangers.
  • If you are interested in a specific industry, you can quickly assess that industry through multiple conversations and find a wide variety of organizations involved in that field.

How to Find Trade Shows

Trade shows are easy to find—organizers seek as much publicity as possible so try several different ways:

  • Look on industry association web sites.
  • Visit company web sites to see where they are exhibiting and/or speaking.
  • Do an online search using key terms (see below for examples).
  • Get on the mailing list for an event organizing firm in an industry that interests you.

If you find an interesting event too late to attend, check out the exhibitor list online. Many conferences link their exhibitor lists to those organizations’ web sites so it is a great collection of industry participants.

Trade Shows Vary Considerably So Find the Ones that Can Help You

The phrase “trade show” is used to refer to one time special events with multiple organizations exhibiting their products and/or services. Trade shows range from large, expensive B2B conferences with exhibit halls to consumer-oriented fairs.

Although many conferences require at least a full day commitment, some allow exhibit hall pass purchasers to add a single educational session, so it may be worthwhile to check the schedule for interesting topics or speakers. Most presenters stay after the talk for a few minutes to chat with attendees and exchange business cards so you may be able to make a valuable connection.

How to Reduce Your Expenses

There are options for lowering the costs of attending these events. First, most trade shows charge students a lower rate—ask to see if you qualify. Some use volunteers to help with logistics so a call to the organization may get you a free pass in return for a time commitment.

And, of course, attending a local even, with minimal travel and no hotel costs, will also help reduce your investment — assuming that a useful event is held near you.

Looking for an Event in a Growth Area — Green Energy or Pets?

Some conferences have exhibit only passes which are less expensive (or free) and allow you to visit the booths of suppliers. Exhibit passes can sometimes be expensive, but this environment is set up for conversation and the booth staff expect to hold numerous conversations with new contacts.

There are options for lowering the costs of attending these events. First, most trade shows charge students a lower rate—ask to see if you qualify. Some use volunteers to help with logistics so a call to the organization may get you a free pass in return for a time commitment.

Events Green Energy

Search on “green energy,” and expo pops up the Dec 7-11, 2014 Renewable Energy World Conference & Expo North America, co-located in Orlando, Florida with the Power Generation Week conference for a total of 22,000 attendees.

While this is a major national conference with a $645 fee to attend one conference plus fees for the golf tournament and networking breakfast, it could be worthwhile. Like many conference/trade shows, it is an annual event so you can make a note to check on the event for 2015.

An even less expensive example is Intersolar, a conference company in the solar industry which presents a national North American conference, to be held in 2015 in San Francisco, July 14-16 for the Exhibition and July 13-15 for the Conference.

This conference is co-located with Semicon West and actually has free events; exhibitors have 30 minutes to present their insight into current trends and new products on the Innovation and Application stage. The 2014 conference also had a Job and Career Forum.

If you register for the exhibits when registration opens in March or in April, the ticket is free, but goes up every month to reach $150 for on-site registration. The event is expected to have 550 exhibitors and 18,000 attendees.

In addition, the company hosts an one-day East Coast event called Intersolar Summit USA East which will take place May 7, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. About 200 people are expected to attend.

Big Event for Pets

If you are interested in the growth industry of pets, one event is the Petfood Conference to be held April 27-30, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. The full pass to the conference talks, exhibit area, networking events, and daytime food is $1,295 while the exhibit only pass is $395.

Maximize the Value of Your Attendance with Advance Preparation

To maximize the value of attending a trade show:

  • Check out the companies exhibiting before you go.
  • Print out the floor plan and map out your visits by priority and location.
  • Take a bag for literature (and your business/networking cards) and a notebook or small recorder for noting key information.

Trade shows can be overwhelming and hard on the feet. Determine the dress code for the event and dress at that level or one step up, but be sure your shoes are comfortable.

While the employees staffing the booth may not be potential bosses, you want to create a good impression so you can ask them for referrals to hiring managers within the company.

Try to tour the floor while most attendees are in sessions. The booth staff will have more time to speak with you. After all, their priority is potential customers, not job seekers.

Start each conversation by saying that you are interested in the company and/or the industry so they know that you have done some research. Ask what is new with the product line or company to help establish rapport before you ask any questions with negative connotations such as “I understand the company was unprofitable last year. How is the company doing this year?” or “Your market share dropped recently. What’s going on now?”

As always, thank them, exchange business cards, and ask if you can follow up with more questions or a referral. Your head will be stuffed with new information and your pockets with new contacts!

Follow Up Quickly After the Show

If you found organizations that interest you, contact the booth staff that you met and ask for referrals to the appropriate hiring managers. Or utilize your networking skills to contact employees at the firm. Either way, use the knowledge you acquired at the trade show to demonstrate your interest in the company.

Good luck!

Parmelee EastmanAbout the author…

Parmelee Eastman is president of EastSight Consulting which helps provide more effective utilization of external information in internal decision-making processes. EastSight Consulting clients range from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Prior to founding EastSight, Parmelee was the vice president of the global technology and communications practice at Fuld & Company and employed for 16 years at Digital Equipment Corporation. Parmelee holds a B.A. from Wellesley College and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School. She can be reached at [email protected].
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