Editor's Note: Plan of Attack

March 11, 2014
A few tips for getting the most out of your trade show experience

As you are hopefully getting ready to attend the biggest trade show our industry has to offer, ISC West (April 2-4 in Las Vegas), do you have a plan of attack in mind? While editors probably tackle a huge trade show a bit differently from the way you do as a security dealer/integrator, I think there’s certainly a few strategies that we have in common that can prove valuable.

This year will be my lucky 13th ISC West — gosh I must be getting old — and I always seem to get the same feeling as I step across the threshold and onto the exhibits hall floor: this place is massive, and how will I ever be able to take it all in? Here are a few tips: 

Rule #1: Make a Schedule

The plain fact of the matter is, you probably can’t take it all in — and you shouldn’t try to. Even for us editors who are visiting a different booth every half hour, there’s basically no chance to hit every single booth you’d like to. Keeping that in mind, it is important to try and maintain at least a loose schedule. That means checking out the show website and zeroing in on the particular vendors you want to visit — whether they are already a trusted partner or you are prospecting for new ones. Beyond prospecting for vendor partners, are you looking for a particular technology, or to figure a way to solve a unique problem for one of your clients? 

Once you solve the answers to these questions, it will be a lot easier to pick and choose the booths and vendors you’d like to visit. Use resources — such as our ISC West product preview (pages 92-107 of this issue) — to get a feel for the different products that will be on display.

Once you have a decent list of people, vendors and technologies, along with any educational sessions you want to see, it is time to craft a schedule. Instead of just wandering around, do a little pre-show legwork and try to make contact with the vendors you want to see and inquire about setting up appointments for a short meeting at a booth, or even over lunch or drinks.

Also important is to schedule time without appointments. You should use this time to explore! Check out the booths in that back row that you never seemed to have time to hit in the past. Look for emerging vendors and technologies. Hit a few of the big guys’ partner booths, which feature innovative technologies from smaller companies that couldn’t necessarily afford to have their “own booth” — you might uncover a gem, or learn something you didn’t know before you walked in that day. If a particular technology catches your eye while you are there, prioritize it and shuffle something less important to the “bottom of the pile.”  

Rule #2: Network, Network, Network!

Beyond getting all-important face-time with vendors and their technologies on the show floor, the event continues well beyond the moment the lights go out in the exhibit hall. Be sure to constantly check and re-check your email in the weeks leading up to the show — I know, all those emails tend to pile up in your inbox, but staying on top of what your partners are planning is vital to ensuring the trip holds as much value as possible.

If one of your major vendor partners is having an after-show-hours event — cocktail parties, outings and the like — put it on your schedule. There is no better place to meet new people and make new contacts in a relaxed atmosphere. Also, be sure to bring enough business cards — I’ve lost count of the amount of times where someone has told me they are already out of cards on the second day of the show!

Rule #3: Have Fun, Just Not TOO Much

Hey, it’s Vegas — it may be work, but you are supposed to have fun too! Just don’t go overboard. We all know how easy it is to pick out the guy who was out partying way too late the night before — the dude who’s a little “rough around the edges” at 10 a.m. The adage of “everything in moderation” especially applies in Las Vegas.

About the Author

Paul Rothman | Editor-in-Chief/Security Business

Paul Rothman is Editor-in-Chief of Security Business magazine. Email him your comments and questions at [email protected]. Access the current issue, full archives and apply for a free subscription at www.securitybusinessmag.com.