How to get the best from a trade show

Blurred, defocused background of public event exhibition hall
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Conference season is in full swing, and while some tech-hungry accountants like nothing better than having all the big vendors under one roof so they can put them through their paces, others shy away from the hype, crowds and noise that are almost inevitable at such events.

With Accountex kicking off this week, it’s likely that many AccountingWEB readers will be making the annual pilgrimage to the Docklands, so we've put together a list of handy hints from our colleagues and friends around the world of accounting to make sure you get the best from this year’s trade show season.

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Plan your time!

At the top of every list should be planning. In a recent edition of Australian accounting podcast From the Trenches covering the Australian Accounting Expo, practice owner Paul Meisner said that trade show attendees need to start with a clear plan of what they want to achieve.

“There’s no way you can physically get round all the exhibitors,” said Meisner. “Pick four or five you want to see and make sure you see them. I want to see if they fit with my firm, predetermine my questions and go to speak to them. I had to work hard to get something out of it, but I did.”

From the Trenches co-host and Sequel CFO founder David Boyar agrees: “If you walk in all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed guess, what’s going to happen? They will sell to you!” he said. “At these sorts of shows, there’s an onus on an attendee to plan their event and work out what they want to get out of it from a content perspective.”

There will be selling

Posting on the AccountingWEB forum on a similar theme, an anonymous reader worried that they would spend the majority of their time listening to sales pitches. Addressing this in our pre-Accountex guide from last year, Richard Sergeant stated that as these events are packed with vendors who have spent a lot of money to be there it’s likely that this will happen, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.

“You’re a sophisticated buyer who appreciates a good sales pitch,” said Sergeant, “so let them try and impress. But only if it’s something you’re genuinely interested in.”

Have real-life scenarios in mind

The research theme is also played out in a blog from Propel by Deloitte’s Bobby Chadha, who believes that a good trade show attendee will have “real-life scenarios and challenges” in mind, which they will ask software vendors to demonstrate the solution for.

According to Chadha, a bad vendor doesn’t do any of this, and asks all the vendors generic questions such as “show me a demo of what XYZ software can do”.

Take action

Speaker James Ashford made a short video for Accountex advising on how to get the best from the show. “Make sure that you take meaningful action at the show to start the momentum to take back to the office,” said Ashford. “And take action on the Friday straight after the show – book a team meeting to share everything that you have learnt and create an action plan.”

Divide and conquer

Writing for our sister site across the Atlantic, Boomer Consulting’s Megan Bloomfield advocated accountants to split up and attend different sessions at different times, then plan to have dinner or lunch together later to compare notes.

If you’re a sole practitioner or attending on your own, Bloomfield’s advice is to seek out other ‘lone wolves’.

“Have a plan for connecting with another person attending the conference alone,” said Bloomfield. “You can usually find them standing on the outskirts of the room, perhaps feigning preoccupation with their phone. Go up to them and introduce yourself. Chances are, they’ll be relieved to have someone else initiate a conversation.”

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Plan your days at Accountex by using the links below:

 

Do you have any best practice for making the most of your time at trade shows?

About Tom Herbert

Tom is editor at AccountingWEB, responsible for all editorial content on the site. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.

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