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    4 Tips to Avoid Trade Show Stress

    How retailers can reduce ‘red badge syndrome’

    By Joe Watson, PMA
    PMA’s Fresh Summit is the produce and floral industry’s largest North American gathering. The 2016 event will feature the largest Fresh Summit trade show ever.

    It’s trade show season, and for some retailers that means red badge syndrome.

    Trade shows can feel overwhelming for people in our industry. In my first few years attending trade shows wearing a red retailer’s badge, it seemed like every aisle I walked down was a gauntlet of sorts. Real or imagined, it seemed everyone wanted a piece of me. 

    Over time and with experience, I learned that I should embrace the trade show opportunity – to talk to exhibitors I might otherwise never have any interaction with. Our industry is changing rapidly, for a retailer not to be engaged is like putting on blinders – like saying “I cannot learn or find anything that I don’t already know about.” That way of thinking could lead to a retailer missing out on exciting new products or services that might benefit their retail business.

    Trade shows are an opportunity to see, smell and experience anything and everything an industry might have to offer. These events give us an opportunity to connect with our current supply partners, as well as to make new connections.

    Here are four tips for not just surviving trade show season, but thriving. Red badge syndrome is preventable.

    • Shop smart. Our industry’s larger conventions and trade shows can feel overpowering. You can bring them down to size by customizing your experience. Pick one subject – or two – to focus on, and plan your schedule around those topics. For example, concentrate on new product ideas, the latest consumer trends, emerging technologies, or attracting, developing and retaining talent. Then pick your education and networking events, and trade show stops, accordingly.
    • Download the app. Smartphone apps make planning your trade show schedule easy. Build your schedule right in the app. Then let the app guide you through your appointments, educational sessions and the exhibits you want to visit. Today’s tech-savvy conventions have online tools that allow you to bookmark the exhibitors you want to visit.
    • Stay late, stay long. As a retailer, to get the best ROI from a trade show, you should spend every hour and minute that the expo is open on the floor. Make a point of walking the show floor in the later hours each day and last day of the event, after the traffic has thinned out – conversations with exhibitors can be much more productive.
    • Save your feet. Review the exhibitor listing in advance, make a list of the exhibits you want to visit, then organize your stops to minimize your steps and avoid backtracking. If there is a new products showcase, start there first before you hit the show floor. Your feet will appreciate it.

    I invite you to add PMA’s Fresh Summit Convention & Expo to your trade show calendar, Oct. 14-16 in Orlando. This year’s Fresh Summit trade show will be the largest ever. This is the one-stop-shop event for the fresh produce and floral industry. The entire world comes to one location, so you can find anything and everything you need for your business in one place. As a 24-year Fresh Summit veteran, I can vouch that it’s a new and different experience each and every year. 

    By Joe Watson, PMA
    • About Joe Watson Joe Watson is VP of domestic business development for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association (PMA).

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