A typical vendor booth at the RAPID + TCT trade show [Source: Fabbaloo]
You’ve got your tickets and are ready to go to North America’s largest 3D printing event. What do you do?
Some may feel attending a conference or trade show is a kind of “business vacation”, but that’s not really the best way to look at it. In fact, those who treat them in that way likely work for companies that are not as focused on business as they should be.
One thing to realize right off the top, however, is that this is a very large event. It seems the show now features something over 430 vendors exhibiting their wares to the public over a three-day period.
This is important: if there are 430 vendors present, and there are only 21 hours during the three-day event to see them. You cannot see them all, unless you are seeing around 20 per hour, from opening to closing each day. That’s around three minutes each.
This, I think, is why they call the event “Rapid”.
This does not count walking time between stands, waiting time to speak to someone, food, breaks and anything else that might happen. So, maybe two minutes per vendor. Clearly, it is entirely impossible to see each and every vendor, and that’s why you need some attendance tips.
All that said, if you’re serious in attending, here are several tips that we think could help you greatly during this massive show.
Attendees at RAPID + TCT 2018 [Source: Fabbaloo]
You’re going to a big show for a purpose, are you not? Make that purpose front and center during your entire trip. It’s oh-so-easy to be distracted by shiny objects at an event such as this.
If your purpose relates to diversifying post-processing capabilities at your plant, say, then consciously ignore vendors that are not providing that function. On the other hand, if one of your goals is more nebulous, like increasing efficiency, then you will have to rapidly evaluate whether a prospective vendor can or cannot help you with that goal.
And of course, you can have multiple goals in mind when attending a conference.
If you have your goals set, then it becomes a matter of planning. You can, in advance, peruse the list of exhibitors to determine which vendors are “must sees” for your particular goals. You can identify a secondary list for those who might be of interest, but you are not sure.
Large trade shows such as this one pose some logistical challenges; even walking across the crowded floor can occupy considerable time. Thus it is advisable to plot a route through the show floor that hits the target vendors.
Try your best to stick to it, but inevitably there will be issues at one or more, and you’ll have to backtrack. This means you should allocate some time towards the end of your visit to redo your path to finish them off.
Finally, schedule breaks and make sure you take them.
Time is the scarcest commodity at large shows, and you must treat it with the utmost respect. Anything that is burning your time should be eliminated. If there’s a long wait for something, get out of the line and do it later, for example.
You must be ruthless in your activities. It’s very easy to engage in a long conversation about an interesting topic with a fascinating person you just met at a booth, but cut it short and move on. You do not have time for that during the show’s exhibition hours.
Conference Networking and Anti-Networking
There will be thousands of people at a show like this, each having some relation to the 3D printing industry. Many of them will have very interesting tales and advice, if you can speak with them.
Try not to do this during show hours, as your time is limited then. Instead, focus on after-hours events where you can mingle with others. Seek out people you don’t know and ask about what they do. You will be utterly surprised by the information you will learn.
That’s happening only if you talk to others; if you are in a group, try not to talk to your comrades. You can do that anytime later, and you must spend your time with new people.
And bring far more business cards than you could imagine handing out, because you will.
With 430 vendors present, it is likely you will not be able to recall conversations, data and products afterwards, so I strongly advise you to take notes of some kind as you visit with vendors. There will be no replay of your conversation unless you record the pertinent information somehow.
There are ways to speed up things. Yes, you could record the audio of your conversation, but that is incredibly tedious to deal with afterwards. Instead, I recommend taking a small physical or electronic notepad to record key things. Be sure to grab a printed flyer or business card so that you at least have the company’s URL and contact information.
Diversity, When Sensible
While I’ve advised to be highly focused in your show travels, there are always moments when you do bump into something that is truly unique and applicable, beyond your original goals.
I’m not saying you should fall for a gimmicky display that is more entertainment than substance, but instead keep your eyes open for products and services that could benefit your operation. When you do, try to spend a minimum of time with them to understand how they can fit in with your company. And be sure to at least grab their contact information.
Shoes, Good Shoes
Large events involve tremendous amounts of walking and standing. Trade shows very often do not provide seating areas for tired attendees on the show floor so that: a) they can sell the space to more vendors, and b) to force attendees to walk up to vendors for discussions.
My final advice here is to absolutely pick your best walking shoes, because you will be on your feet for many hours. I think my personal record for show floor walking was over 25,000 steps. Imagine doing that for three days straight and think of how your feet will feel.
Hopefully these tips will help you in your attendance at RAPID + TCT next week, or any conference and trade show you might be attending.
Via RAPID + TCT