Getting the maximum benefit from a show, such as the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition in Manchester, takes careful planning. From booking your travel and accommodation to your time with each vendor, it’s important to prepare ahead of time. Use our helpful checklist to make sure you get the most from your visit.
Research and prioritise those exhibitors that you want to visit. Who do you ‘need to see’ and who would you ‘like to see’?
Divide your time between those exhibitors you want to see, but make sure there is time in your schedule in case meetings run over, or if you want to catch some of the free learning sessions on offer.
Write a list of questions to ask and what information you require from exhibitors. Find out beforehand which of their products and services are of specific interest and relevance to you. You can then build a list of relevant questions to ask each of them.
Think about what you want to achieve, and what’s expected of you by your manager and/or colleagues? Make sure you’re clear about the goals of your visit.
If you’re attending the show with colleagues, meet with them to discuss how best to utilise your time and work together. By collaborating, you can cover much more of the show and collate your findings afterwards.
Remember to take business cards with you to avoid filling out forms at each stand, and to share your details with new contacts.
Pack comfortable shoes and clothing to wear at the conference. You’ll be surprised the distance you’ll cover during the day.
If you’re driving, remember to pre-book parking. Although there are plenty of car parks near to the venue, they’ll fill up extremely quickly with visitors to the show.
Remember to book to see specific talks to avoid missing out. If there are multiple talks then you could split them between you and colleagues and each take notes to collate later.
Pre-book your free exhibition ticket and arrive early for the show. This will give you time to familiarise yourself with the surroundings, ensure that you’re at the front of the queue and avoid the general rush of visitors.
Make sure you’re clear on how to get to Manchester Central, and check the route and travel from your hotel to the venue if you’re staying in the city.
Don’t be afraid to ask for relevant information to take away with you. All exhibitors should have brochure packs for you to browse while commuting home or when you get back to the office.
Explain to each exhibitor that you have a specific time slot allocated for their demo and you’re on a strict schedule. They should be happy with this and most will prefer to provide an in-depth demonstration later on, either in-person or via an online meeting.
Put bulky bags and coats in the cloakroom. Carrying awkward items around a crowded arena will slow you down and tire you out.
Take a break after a few hours to refresh, eat, have a drink and get some fresh air.
Try to keep a record of your day, to help with any follow-up research you need to do, or conversations you need to have, when you get back to your workplace.
Don’t be afraid to ask searching and sometimes tricky questions of exhibitors. Most should be happy to answer any questions, regardless of their complexity. If they cannot respond themselves, they should be able take your question to someone who can help.
If you’ve finished, then leave the show a bit early to avoid the rush to the nearest station and queues at the cloakroom. There’s nothing worse at the end of a busy day on your feet than not getting a seat on the train or joining a huge queue for the bus or taxi.
Create a structured report of those exhibitors that you spoke with. Making sense of your day and using the information you gathered to arrive at informed decisions will make your diligent note taking worthwhile.
Discuss your findings with stakeholders and decision-makers. Gather colleagues and senior staff to discuss your findings and provide your recommendations for next steps.
Book a meeting for further discussions with exhibitors of interest as soon as possible. The most proactive ones should also get in touch with you.
This article was first published in October 2017. It was updated in October 2018 for freshness, clarity and accuracy.