Know what you want to achieve. If your company is sending you, understand what your boss wants you to achieve. Understanding why you are going will help define what you wish to accomplish.
Create a list of exhibitors and break the list into two sections. The first section is the must-see exhibitors and the second section is the would-like-to-see exhibitors. When arriving at the show, visit only the must-see exhibitors. Resist the urge to wander and stay focused on the task at hand. If you finish your must-see list move onto your second list, and if you finish both lists, you have time to check out anything else that catches your attention.
Decide how much time you want to spend at the show and then at each booth. Allow extra time for browsing each booth or waiting to speak with someone. Always factor in a buffer. It is better to overestimate than to run short on time when planning out your days.
Find out who else from your company is going to the show and develop a plan to maximize your visit, especially at large shows. Divide and conquer, then make lists of booths to revisit with colleagues. Avoid having multiple people visit the same booths independently. This can cause confusion among yourselves and the exhibitor.
Know what information you need to have from each exhibitor. One of the most frequent mistakes attendees make is not having a list of questions. If you don’t have a list of questions targeted to your needs, all you will receive is a sales pitch. Ask the exhibitor questions about their products, their company, and about the competition. Remember, the product is the sale, the company is the relationship, and you have to do business with companies that you can trust and that are likely to be in business in the future and that have a great reputation.
Make appointments with exhibitors you really want to meet. While a show can be hectic for both the attendee and the exhibitor, most exhibitors will allow you to make an appointment to ensure they are available according to your schedule. Also, remember that many people have to see the same exhibitors, so try not to linger in a single booth.
Go online and print the show floor plan and map out your journey. This will help avoid crisscrossing back and forth throughout the entire facility. This also helps keep you on target.
Take a light and comfortable "carry-all" for accumulated materials. Ask exhibitors to scan your show badge. This will ensure that your visit was hard-coded into a system.
Plan the seminars/workshops you want to attend. Split sessions with your colleagues to maximize data gathering. Even if you are well versed on a topic, you can always learn something new.
Plan how you are going to sort through the information gathered. If you created a good show plan and followed it, you should have a great deal of data to review. Start with the items that are most important to your business and work your way down from there.
Evaluate the type of post-show follow-up you receive from the exhibitor. If your business is important, you will be contacted in a timely manner. If you have to chase an exhibitor prior to the sale, you can only imagine what things would be like after the sale.