MRO Q&A: How to Optimize Value from Trade Show Visits

A reader asks: How can I make the process of selecting a trade show to attend more efficient?

A reader asks...

I am getting a lot of requests from my people to attend various equipment trade shows. The shows can be valuable, but I need some input on how to make the process efficient. Any suggestions?

Our Expert responds...

One of the greatest values trade shows offer is bringing together multiple vendors presenting equipment that performs basically the same function. To best organize a show excursion, build an agenda around three types of evaluations: current needs relating to equipment performance, “new to the industry” equipment that will move your operation forward, and, lastly, technologies being presented that are applied to products unrelated to yours but that could be incorporated into your processes. The first agenda item can be very structured because you know which suppliers meet those needs. The second item will be covered with each of the vendors you just talked to, in addition to other vendors on the show floor. The last agenda item typically is the most time consuming, so it is a good idea to place a time limit on these activities.

Defining your current performance needs can best be determined by analyzing your equipment downtime and maintenance cost data. This will flag the top five pieces of equipment with the greatest improvement opportunities. It also will give you a framework to prioritize booth visits to discuss specific vendors’ solutions. While visiting those exhibitors, you should also ask what “new to the industry” offerings they have. The same question should be posed at every booth you visit. When looking for fresh ideas, do not ignore the smaller booths. Many times, these exhibitors are sharp entrepreneurs that have great ideas but can't afford large booths or prime locations.

As a general rule, you should spend no more than 15 minutes at any booth. You also will need to be well disciplined and diplomatic in getting to the point of what you are looking for and what is not of interest to you.

Before the trade show, make sure you have an organizational meeting and establish expectations for the trip. Likewise, you should have a recap meeting when the team gets back from the show. This gives the people who did a great job a chance to get well-earned recognition for their efforts and adds some accountability to the whole process.

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