The Experience Convention & Trade Show returns to The Mirage in Las Vegas next month, and as always, there is a whole lot to take in, learn, and explore. With so many trade shows in the restoration industry today, it can be hard to choose what you attend. Still, it’s key to remember there are beneficial reasons to attend these whenever possible, no matter if you’re an exhibitor or attendee.

For attendees, here are some essential reasons for attending:

1.  Get smart - The poet John Donne (no relation to the distributor) said, “No man is an island.” That has an application in restoration because our industry is in constant flux.  Operating procedures change, laws change, standards change, and trade shows are terrific places to get caught up on what you need to know. If the way you’ve always done things gets results, that’s great. But what if there’s a better way? After all, once the first transcontinental railroad was completed, few opted to cross the country in Conestoga wagons anymore. So, take advantage of the networking events, workshops, seminars and panel discussions that are offered.

2.  Get handsy - You can take in a lot of information about products from pictures, descriptions and videos. But to completely understand how they function and whether they’ll work for you before you buy, nothing beats touching them, operating them and receiving hands-on experience to truly appreciate an item’s uses and value. Since a manufacturer’s competition will also likely be there, that’ll give you a chance to check out and compare products.

3.  Get face time - Whether it’s a manufacturer’s rep or another contractor, at no other place will you get such a great chance to pick someone’s brain. Instead of emailing a question to a manufacturer, enjoy an actual conversation with real time feedback. There’s a wealth of information among all the exhibitors and they welcome questions, comments and concerns. Your peers from around the country can also be an important source of information and tips, and trade shows are about the only place you’re able to have a one-on-one conversation with them in a relaxed setting.

restoration trade shows

For exhibitors, your focus is drawing attendees into your booth. One of the ways many vendors do this is by giveaways. Pens, screwdrivers, backscratchers, sticky notes, boxes of mints, luggage tags and koozies, often referred to as “swag,” and are some of the most common giveaways at tradeshows. 

People are always interested in picking up or receiving free stuff from vendors, sometimes just because it’s free and other times because they think the item is fun or useful. However, the reason you’re giving it out is so that potential customers will be reminded to call you if they’re ever in need of your services. But before you go out and buy a gross of personalized stress balls, consider these factors:

  • How often will it be used and seen?  Items like key chains, rubber wrist bands, coasters and mini Frisbees will usually be quickly relegated to the back of a junk drawer, never to be seen again. But branded hats, t-shirts, coffee mugs, quality highlighters/pens, mini flashlights and USB flash drives are the types of items that are more likely to be utilized over and over again, imprinting your company name on the user’s brain each time.
  • Stay away from perishables.  The idea for a giveaway is repeated use by a prospective customer. But once they’ve consumed your box of mints, cookies, candy or bag of peanuts and tossed the package, what good does it do you?  The worst giveaway may be those branded seed packets - that are buried in the ground! They’ll have very limited marketing potential.
  • Your company name, phone number, and what service you provide should be imprinted on each item. If what you do is not readily apparent by your company name, spell it out.
restoration trade shows

Business cards have long been and continue to be the most common handout, as they should be. But even these can be improved upon to assist customers to remember you. Remember these important don’ts: 

  • Don’t use boring cards. These days there are some great templates that you can choose from or you can easily and cheaply design your own online on a number of websites.
  • Don’t get too fancy or artsy-fartsy.  Cards that are confusing, contain too much information, are extra-large or odd shaped so that they won’t fit into a business card holder will likely get lost or tossed.
  • Don’t leave the back blank.  Use your imagination. For instance, print a coupon and/or a QR code on it that will direct them to your website with an introductory offer.
restoration trade shows

How valuable a trade show will be is completely up to you. Whether you’re attending or exhibiting at one, use your time well by soaking in as much knowledge as you can and attract new customers by using your resources wisely. By doing so, the costs associated with travel and time away from your business will turn into an investment that will keep you on the cutting edge of your industry and help to promote your business.