We have finally arrived here — the last tradeshow of the year. It has been a year that has seen us return to the traditional lineup of major car wash industry events, the scramble caused by the pandemic hopefully now fully behind us. The Northeast Regional Carwash Convention closes out the 2022 show calendar in Atlantic City this month. The Southwest Car Wash Association Convention and Expo kicks off the 2023 schedule in February, while The Car Wash Show, presented by the International Carwash Association, takes up position in May — the timing of all three comfortably familiar.
This roughly winter-spring-fall schedule affords operators and vendors a mere three opportunities each year to meet face-to-face, allowing the former to gather information about the latest in the industry and the latter to present and expound on those latest innovations. Best make the most of it. I was therefore intrigued by the first sentence in a recent missive from Purple Exhibits, an exhibitor services provider. It reads: “People do really dumb stuff at tradeshows.” This critique is quickly supplemented with several suggested easy fixes.
Although the advice that follows is directed at exhibitors rather than attendees, the latter are clearly impacted by whatever action exhibitors take or fail to take. The company’s first suggestion is to bring along senior management — the president and/or CEO, provided they are charming and knowledgeable. However, if they are overly enamored with the sound of their own voice, it’s better to leave them at home. The presence of senior management indicates the exhibitor is serious about the show, ergo the customer. This, according to Purple Exhibits.
Arrive early on the show floor and leave late, the advice continues. This not only allows for booth setup, but also unhurried conversations with other exhibitors and an assessment of what the competition is up to. That leads conveniently into the next admonition: do not ignore the competition. Even if you are the leader in your field, maintaining friendly relationships with competitors can pay off down the road.
There is likewise a warning against ignoring your existing customers, though this is presented more in the sense of neglecting them since they are known and possibly considered “tied-in.” It’s worth remembering the adage that it is easier — and less expensive — to retain an existing customer than it is to cultivate a new one.
You may not be a party animal, but Purple Exhibits implores exhibitors to not ignore the tradeshow’s social events. This includes receptions, meet-and-greet opportunities, award presentations, etc. They might be social, but they are still business functions. There is a special tip for anyone under 30: Social media does not equal social events. You do have to talk to people; you can’t just text them.
Finally, exhibitors are reminded not to rely on their memory. On day one, you’ll recall every conversation. By the end of the show, there will inevitably be gaps in what you can remember. Suggested recording tools include paper, tablet, business cards with notes, digital recorder, etc. — anything that will facilitate the later reconstruction of the interactions during the tradeshow.
The authors of this wisdom feel passionately about the subject. They invite their readers to share their own quick fixes as a “volunteer community service.” Whether offering quick fixes of their own or sharing those from others, the goal is laudable: a better tradeshow experience for both the exhibitor and the attendee.