Before the exhibition
1. Draw up a list of objectives for visiting the exhibition. Define what you wish to achieve eg to get an overview of certain types of software, see the latest software functionality, or to meet certain vendors.
2. Plan your visit. Make a shortlist of exhibitors, vendor demonstrations, educational or other sessions you wish to see. Don’t consider spending all day in vendor software demonstrations - they may end up sounding and looking alike and you may end up being totally confused. Plan a balance of visiting stands, meeting vendors, discussing your requirements, as well as attending demonstrations.
3. Mark the locations of the stands / demonstrations you wish to see on an exhibition layout planner so you know your way around the exhibition floor and can save time / avoid getting lost when you are there.
4. Attending with colleagues can help to determine which software to investigate further. However, plan in advance who is attending, who shall see what and when. Aim to cover all items, with colleagues splitting up to cover different parts of the exhibition.
5. Determine how you will get to the exhibition - so that you arrive on time and are able to complete everything. If you are attending for more than one day and need overnight accommodation, book well in advance of the date(s) required.
At the exhibition
6. Follow your visit plan. Ensure you cover the areas you wish to see. Don’t get side-tracked once at the exhibition - you can use any time left over at the end to visit other stands which look interesting.
7. If attending with colleagues - use the opportunity to quickly obtain a large amount of information and to network / create new contacts for later use. Work the exhibition - don’t just stay together or treat as a day out of the office!
8. Take a copy of your outline system requirements* with you - to refer to and / or raise key points with vendors / exhibitors.
9. Take plenty of business cards - to hand out to exhibitors and to save filling in their forms with your details.
10. Take a pen and small note pad for jotting down key items, demonstration notes, points of interest, contacts etc.
11. Attending exhibitions can be tiring. They can be hot (particularly in poorly ventilated demonstration rooms) and you may do a lot of walking. Be prepared - wear comfortable clothing and take regular refreshments throughout the day.
After the exhibition
12. Review the information you have obtained and write up notes / ideas as applicable. Discuss with colleagues. Then determine which software vendors you wish to follow up on and investigate further.