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It’s almost 2020, and that means it’s time for North America’s largest trade show. CONEXPO-CON/AGG happens once every three years, and it’s a great opportunity to take a look at the latest heavy equipment, explore new construction technologies, learn about industry trends and connect with manufacturers, suppliers and other partners. If you’ve already made plans to head to Las Vegas this March or are thinking about attending other trade shows this year, here are some suggestions for getting the most out of your experience.

  1. Plan ahead. Some trade shows are small and very industry-specific, making it easy for you to explore all the booths and experience everything on offer. But CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020 and similar events are a different story. You’ll never make your way around 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space and 2,800+ exhibitors without a strategy. Check out the show’s website well in advance of the event, review the map and schedule, and make a plan for what you want to see and when.
  2. Ask questions. Once you get to the show, take advantage of the opportunity to talk directly with the engineers, sales reps and service personnel staffing the booths. Picking up brochures and watching the videos on display is fine, but this is one of the few chances you get to connect face to face with the people who build and support your equipment. They’re eager to answer your questions and share the latest and greatest information about their products. You’ll likely learn something not included in the standard marketing materials.
  3. Meet people. Striking up a conversation with trade show exhibitors is an excellent place to start, but don’t overlook your fellow attendees. Whether you enjoy networking or not, it’s a key part of winning new jobs and growing your business. Are there other contractors at the show whose work you admire? What about companies who could serve as potential subcontractors? Is there an opportunity to talk with your competitors and learn what’s happening in their businesses? Make an effort to introduce yourself, hand out business cards and come home with a new contact or two.
  4. Learn something. Picking up free swag is always a bonus, but be sure that’s not all you take away from your next trade show. Acquire some knowledge too. Most shows combine an exhibition with product demos, seminars and networking events. CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020, for example, has 150 educational sessions planned. Sign up to learn about everything from up-and-coming technologies and industry regulations to attracting the best talent and establishing a safety-first culture.
  5. Follow up. Take a few minutes when you get back to work (or even on the flight home) to jot down any products or technologies that interested you. Make note of any business ideas or opportunities you want to pursue. Add your new contacts to your email or send a “nice to meet you” text. You invested time and money attending the show — now make it worth your while by taking action on what you learned.

Every trade show, big or small, offers information, tools and connections that can benefit your operation. Go in prepared, keep an open mind and have fun — one of the people or products you encounter could be the key to moving your business forward.