January 4, 2016

By Craig Rexford

Even though trade shows happen every year, they always seem to arrive faster than expected.

Everyone in the pet industry has at least once experienced mild panic from trade show procrastination. Leaving preparations until the last minute seems fine until you find yourself cramming clothes into your suitcase seconds before you have to leave for your flight.

As trade show season inches closer, try to remember that it is never too early to start preparing. Even though you may have heard this before, it bears repeating because trade shows are a crucially important opportunity for the industry as well as for your business.

Trade shows can be huge and overwhelming, so be sure to check vendor lists and floor plans beforehand and do some research. Make lists of old favorites to check up on and new companies that you would like to learn more about so that you can tackle the abundance of booths strategically.

Budgeting is also important when it comes to making trade shows as enjoyable as possible. Planning a budget in advance will render it far less stressful to make decisions about accommodations and expenses during the show. Know how much you can spend and stick to it to stay sane.

Speaking of accommodations – hotels fill up fast! Pick the right place for you as soon as possible to avoid last minute mix-ups. It’s also key to book travel plans early in the game to prevent problems like overpaying for airfare or getting booted off of an overcrowded flight.

Finally, take advantage of technology and download the apps trade shows build to guide your experience. They are a great and exciting new resource and are likely to make your life much easier over the course of those few busy days. Additionally, the hotel or convention center is likely to have an app that can point you to restaurants, entertainment or other items of interest.

With Global coming up in March and SuperZoo and P3 in August, it may still seem like you have all of the time in the world. But I challenge you to take 2016 by storm and put your best foot forward from the very start. You will make invaluable connections and gain key business insights at trade shows – if and only if you plan your approach to them with precision.

Of course, sometimes life gets in the way you just have to go with the flow. If this is the case, never fear! You always have this year’s local distributor open houses and buying shows to look forward to.

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