Why and How to Attend Trade Shows

As a merchant (online or brick & mortar), trade shows are very relevant and in my opinion, mandatory.

If you have never been to a trade show, it is something I would recommend doing at least once a year. Below I will explain some of the positive benefits of attending trade show, how I would "do" a trade show, and then some recommended trade shows.

Why attend trade shows

  • See, touch interact with the products before committing to them.
  • Connections! We do not always get to be face-to-face with our suppliers. It is ALWAYS better to have relationships with suppliers when you know the people behind the brand. This is your opportunity to shake their hand, exchange business cards, chat, start a long lasting relationship with them.
  • See the newest trends and hear the latest news of the industry. This is the best way to see what is popular and what is changing. Just walking around the isles of a trade show will give you this insight.
  • Trade shows offer more than just exhibitions and booths. They also offer short 30 minute to an hour classes for the attendees. Attend classes and hear stories from top influencers of the industry. 

How to do a trade show

Let me start this section by explaining what happened when I went to my first trade show ever (so you don't make the same mistakes as me!). I went there without ever attending a show, no plan, no idea of who I would see, made no appointments. I arrived to Americas Mart in Atlanta and was in awe. There were two buildings, roughly 7 floors for each building, and each floor was the size of a football field. I got there and wide eyed like a deer caught in headlights, I said....how am I going to see every single booth? I spent two whole days just walking the isles of every floor and building. I was tired, drained, overwhelmed, and feeling defeated. It was a huge waste of time and energy. 

Moral to the story: do not expect to see every booth and go to every floor. Go to a trade show with a plan, and have some specific booths or areas in mind that you want to visit. You can actually obtain a map of the market to see who will be there, and where. There is no need to see every booth and store. Go to specific areas depending on your niche, and stay away from the areas that do not pertain to you. 

Also, attend the classes! They offer free classes throughout the day. It is a great way to rest your feet and take a break from talking with suppliers. But most importantly, it is a way to learn from the best influencers and get more insight than your competitors who did not attend. The classes are honestly my favorite part of trade shows. 

Last thing: bring comfortable shoes and bring a bunch of business cards!

Trade show recommendations

These are my top 3 trade shows. Honestly, it boils down to your location. They are all more or less the same, and you will have the same suppliers attending all of them. So choose the one closest to you. The only one that sticks out to me is ASD in Las Vegas. As an FBA seller, I felt more appreciated and that there were more classes geared toward online sellers. (Also, you are in Las Vegas.....I mean, come on.)

  • Attend a trade show specialized to your industry. At one point, we were selling a lot of knitting supplies. I attended a knitting trade show in DC. That was a great trade show, and honestly not so overwhelming because the specialized shows tend to be significantly smaller, but still offer the classes and contacts. 

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