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There are a number of good reasons for attending trade shows, but there are also a number of excuses for not attending.

More than anything else, attending a show related to merchandise you are selling, or wish to sell, puts you in the middle of your chosen industry. You are immersed in the language of the trade. You get to see not only the tested market items, but the new, not yet released items that will be next season’s HOT ITEMS.

You’ll get to rub elbows with experienced sales professionals. You can study their selling styles, pick up on some of their product features and benefits, right from the folks behind the products. You can pick up pointers that you can incorporate in your own sales copy, your web page descriptions. You can learn a lot and never make a purchase.
Most shows do require proof you are really in business. So take the time NOW to register your business and get a business checking account. Have some business cards printed, or do them on your PC. You can use your home address and mobile or home phone number. You will not go the jail for stretching the truth just a bit.

Many shows now use bar coded badges for the attendees and the exhibitors have scanners to collect your contact info. For those that don’t scan, drop you business cards. Freely allow them to scan, or drop a card where they don’t, as you will end up on some mailing lists that might help you establish yourself as a legitimate business.

And yes, you may miss a day at work! Won’t be the first time, will it? Probably done it for a weaker reason, I’d bet.

Many shows are on the weekends. Or at least have a weekend day in the schedule. Make a weekend of it. Take the family, spend a night or two away from home. Sort of a mini-vacation. I try and make a show in Atlantic City that is a 5 hour or so drive one way and a leisurely hour or so ferry ride. Take the family and make a trip out of it.

If there is travel and lodging involved, go through the show and book early. They usually have good rates for rooms and air fares, if needed.

Even if close by, it’s going to cost a bit, if only for lunch. It’s like going to a concert or an amusement park, etc. Nothing inside the doors are cheap, from a bottle of water to lunch. Nothing fancy at most shows: burgers, sandwiches, etc .

Still in all it’s the thing to do. Like your first concert, first rave, first plane flight, it’s a definite experience. Make it a point to push the reasons for not attending aside and get there!
Make some friends while you’re there. There will be others as “lost” as you.There are other first-timers there. And some other folks you’ll feel comfortable with. While you’re rubbing elbows at the booths, strike up a conversation. Many a time I’ve made buying (or not buying) decisions not by what the sales people told me, but by talking to present customers of the supplier.

Some of the attendees may look different than you. They may dress different. Or speak with an accent. But they are just like you. The whole place is filled with people like you. People who make their livings buying and selling the same types of goods you do. Truly a gathering of your peers.

Some things to prepare for your adventure:

1) Wear Comfortable Walking Shoes.

Have a good “over the shoulder” type tote bag. You will be picking up lots of catalogs, samples and goodies. Yes, goodies, from pens and fridge magnets to frisbees or golf balls. And naturally, samples.

2) Take a Bag.

Wheeled suitcases are often not allowed. Backpacks are OK, but not easy to access for business cards, etc. Over the shoulder works best.

There are often good tote bags given away. Take those with real handles, avoid the type with just holes in the plastic, your hands will soon know the difference.

You can often find a “friend” in one of the booths who may let you stash some of your collection if it becomes too much to carry easily.
3) Bring Refreshments With You.

Food and drink are usually available, but are not cheap. You might include a bottle of water and snack in you “carry-in”.

4) Take Business Cards.

The same applies to business cards. Take plenty and pass them out freely. If you do not have any, make some on your PC using business card stock available everywhere.

5) Pay Attention to Sales of Samples.

You can often get some very good deals at closing time on the last day. Many exhibitors would rather sell their samples than pack them up.

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