7 Strategies to Maximize Your CONEXPO-CON/AGG Experience

Now that CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017 is over what can contractors do to continue the momentum of the show, build on what you learned and extend the show's value to day-to-day work?

Share learnings and highlights from the show with team members back at the office.
Share learnings and highlights from the show with team members back at the office.

You went to CONEXPO–CON/AGG. You hit every hall. You visited every company on your list. You wore comfortable shoes. You even made it to that “to-die-for” and “only-in-Vegas” restaurant you researched beforehand. You had a great experience — but, now what?

With any tradeshow, the biggest challenge isn’t covering the entire exhibit area, attending every educational seminar or getting through it all blister-free. The biggest challenge is what to do after; to continue the momentum of the show, build on the connections and learnings you gained, and extend the show’s value to your day-to-day work.

This year’s CONEXPO–CON/AGG show hit record numbers compared to the 2014 show, offering even more reason to have a strategic, thoughtful plan for post-show goals and follow-up:

  • Estimated 128,000 total attendees — nearly 3,000 more than 2014
  • Buyer attendance increase of 16%
  • 2.8 million+ net square feet of exhibit space, up from 2.35 million in 2014
  • An exhibitor increase of 800 for a total of 2,800+ exhibitors
  • 52,000 educational session attendees, a 26% increase compared to 2014

Fresh back from Las Vegas, here are seven tips from our team to ensure you get the most from the time you spent at CONEXPO–CON/AGG.

1. Categorize cards

Business cards — whether one or 100 — it’s virtually impossible to leave CONEXPO–CON/AGG without a stack of them. These are among the most valuable possessions brought back from tradeshows, which is why organizing them into categories is a must.

For example, if you’re in sales, one category could be for “hot” sales leads — those who seemed really interested or requested info — and another designated as “cold” sales leads — connections you made that aren’t likely to turn into immediate sales but could convert in time.

If you’re responsible for purchasing, one of your categories could be companies with the products of most interest to you, another could be those of mild interest and a third category could be companies from which you’ll likely never purchase but the contact is a valuable industry connection.

On that note, designate one separate pile for all “general” connections — those who are in a peer position, those who are industry influencers or others you found interesting that could be valuable relationships down the road.

After all the cards are categorized, capture the info. Whether an app that scans contact info directly into your phone, or a simple spreadsheet of your own, get the data into one, well-organized place.

2. Updated plan of attack

Go back to the plan you made prior to attending the show — you know, the one that laid out your goals, the booths you wanted to visit and the number of contacts you wanted to make — and do a quick evaluation. Note what you accomplished and what you didn’t; who you saw and who you missed.

Next, note what you saw that wasn’t on your plan. For example, most manufacturers unveiled new products at the show — any that were relevant to your company? Some may not even be available yet, so set a reminder to check back on them when they’re released in the market. 

Finally, your CONEXPO–CON/AGG experience isn’t over. For every booth, demo and new product you saw, there are at least a dozen you didn’t. Seek out post-show coverage, including videos, articles and product releases, from reputable trade pubs and show-affiliated sources. If there were booths or companies you wanted to see but just didn’t make it to, this is your chance to see them now.

Use all of this info to create a plan for achieving your post-show goals, whether those be your own personal goals or those designated by management.

3. Immediate interaction

One of the first steps to achieving those post-show goals is to follow up on the connections you made. Starting with your highest-priority group from your business card categories, send a quick email to everyone you met. Work your way through the list until everyone has been contacted.

As much as you want to believe every person will remember you, it may not be the case, given the sheer magnitude of CONEXPO–CON/AGG. Include a little anecdote from the conversation, or even a quick re-introduction of yourself and company in the message. Keep it general and friendly for this first interaction versus sending a sales pitch or asking for something right off the bat.

While every connection will be different in terms of how long to wait until your next follow up, the general rule of thumb is as early as a week for especially hot contacts, or up to a month or more for cold or more general contacts. Set reminders now for appropriate follow-up calls to make over the next few weeks.

4. Social connection

These days, connections go beyond an email or phone call — it’s all about getting social. Again, referencing your contact list, do Twitter and LinkedIn searches, and connect with everyone on those platforms.

In the next week or so, make the effort to engage with each connection, whether a simple Like on someone’s LinkedIn update or retweeting something he or she shared.

5. Give back

Attending a tradeshow offers more than just personal benefit to you; there’s value for an entire organization in one person’s experience. At RDO Equipment Co., we have a policy of “bringing the show back to the stores.” Everyone who attends makes the effort to share what he or she learned with team members who weren’t there. A few ideas:

Organize the literature you collected from different companies.

  • Set aside pieces relevant to specific machines, and share with team members who’d be interested.
  • Create a separate pile of those that are unique or very well done, and share with the marketing team.

Think about the booths you visited.

  • Of the ones that stand out in your mind, what about them was memorable?
  • Did any companies do something that made their exhibits particularly effective?
  • Share those thoughts with your team members.
  • Think about how you could implement at the next tradeshow in which you exhibit.

Collect and organize info from the seminars you attended.

  • Seek out additional handouts, slides or other materials available from presenters.
  • Type up all notes you took — include the seminar and presenter name.
  • Once you have the info organized, place it in a company-accessible folder on your network.
  • Notify appropriate team members so they’re able to benefit from your learnings and key takeaways.

Get even more social.

  • Look at what your competitors shared throughout the week.
  • Look at what top manufacturers were sharing throughout the week.
  • Note the tactics that seemed to work really well
  • Share with your team members for future social media ideas.

6. Organize expenses

From your morning trip to Starbucks to taking a customer out to dinner, it’s highly likely you incurred some expenses at CONEXPO–CON/AGG. While probably the least exciting part of your post-show follow-up plan, it’s absolutely necessary to organize and record expenses.

Don’t wait until month-end to sort receipts and fill out your report, do it now while the week is still fresh in your mind.

7. Toss the SWAG

This last tip isn’t as directly related to looking ahead at post-show goals but it’s worth sharing nonetheless. A week or so after the show, you may notice a pile of SWAG that has been sitting on or under your desk. The longer you wait to address it, the easier it gets to ignore it — so clean it up now.

Go through all your hats, keychains, flashlights and everything in your bags. Put away or bring home the items you want to keep, then give the rest to coworkers, friends or donate it.

As with any tradeshow, much of the value of attending CONEXPO–CON/AGG comes in the weeks and months after the show is over. Post-show planning, strategy and execution against goals is the best way to maximize the time spent and get the most out of your experience.