Catch Some Zs on the Plane

Trade show season is about to ramp up. How do you feel about that? (Do trade shows suck, do you find them useful, or is it something else? Relax. Close your eyes. Let your feelings out.)

If your company has a large travel budget, you could be flying to multiple meetings across the United States, covering such topics as water policy, water reuse research, monitoring, collection systems, oil spills, brownfields, and waste to energy, and that's just in May. If you consider the international arena, you could be going to China for Aquatech or Montreal for the International Conference on Thermal Treatment Technologies.

When we go, our team tries to book every minute of our time: a press briefing at breakfast, presentations, lunch meeting with an editorial contributor, walk the floor, meet and greet at the booth while editing some material for the Web, hors d'oeuvres and drinks at this hotel, dinner meeting with staff, and a hosted event with a potential client. This schedule can be quite stimulating but sometimes, I can't wait to get back to the office.

A colleague of mine thinks conferences are time wasters. I understand what she means.
Generally, we try to attend the REALLY BIG shows to maximize our opportunities to meet with more people. Because that is what other exhibitors and attendees are doing, appointments often get delayed or missed altogether. We tend to regroup via phone and e-mail after everyone has recuperated from the conference, so did we really need to go in the first place? Maybe not.

A big exhibitor I know has complained publicly about the cost of attending several shows a year, but the company keeps doing it anyway. When you consider the costs of shipping exhibit materials, equipment, and booths in addition to the necessary employees, transportation, hotels, and meals at the conference location, it doesn't take long before you want to squeeze a client for a big contract onsite to make the trip worthwhile. Do companies close deals at conferences? You tell me.

The meat of the conferences -- the regulatory/tech presentations and new product demonstrations -- seem to offer the most bang for the buck. I guess access to people you wouldn't normally be able to see is pretty valuable, too.

If you could customize a conference for your purposes, what would it look like?

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Posted by L.K. Williams, EPonline on May 02, 2008