The Accidental Trade Show

A few days ago I came across this blog post by a reporter at Computerworld about his experience at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). My favorite line is, “What I most remember from CES were fairly random things, the kind of interactions that are the result of sheer serendipity.” He goes on to tell several stories about people he met (many of them off the show floor) with fascinating products or experiences to share.

His story reminds me of many chance encounters I’ve experienced at shows over the years. I’ve discovered fantastic vendors tucked away in low-traffic areas, and gained new clients from random meetings at lunch or a reception. But perhaps the most memorable connection was the result of sore feet. Like at many shows, there was no place to sit down in the expo hall, so I went out to the convention center lobby and found a bench with only one other person sitting on it. We struck up a conversation, and that led to a five-year relationship with a client. (It even outlasted that original contact’s time at the organization.) All because my feet hurt!

So the next time you’re at a show, be alert at all times. You never know when that person on the bus, in the elevator, or on the bench next to you could become a very important client or vendor.

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With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.


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