If you want the full experience when attending your first tradeshow as an exhibitor I would have to say Fabtech would be the one. I’ve been working at CEI for over 16 years and had not attended a tradeshow yet. I was always getting the much-needed materials ready but was never inclined to go. What held me back was the fear of someone asking me a question on the spot that I could not answer. I have that happen on the phone at times and handle it with confidence so what is the problem? I have always enjoyed speaking with my customers so this would actually give me the opportunity to meet some of them face-to-face! So, I finally decided it was time for me to step out of my shell and into the tradeshow world.
Even before we flew out to Chicago I meet two people from Kansas City that were attending Fabtech! To be networking before the tradeshow had even started was awesome, to say the least. Our flight was delayed but we finally arrived in Chicago. First thing I noticed was the massive amount of traffic and I thought Houston was bad but then again, I don’t get out much. I stayed at the Hyatt which is attached to the McCormick Place that houses the Fabtech show, easy and convenient access to the show was a plus. Once we took our bags to the room we were to meet at 3:30 to set up our booth. On our way to our spot, I was fascinated by the volume of people coming and going. The place looked like an unorganized, extremely big, bare concrete workshop. I was thinking this show starts tomorrow, how on earth will this all be set up in time? I bet it took a good 20 minutes to find our booth once we hit one of the many enormous showroom floors. Setting up our booth was a breeze but I was with my seasoned colleague Antonio, who’s been attending these for at least the last 10 years. Within an hour we were set up and looking at other booths that had many man hours to go. Some of them even had rooms with conference tables and refrigerators! My favorite setup I think would be Lincoln Electric, mostly because they also played music, it was truly their own oasis.
On the first day of the tradeshow, I was not expecting it to look so put together. With so much machinery and smelling like a machine shop the day before I was surprised at how nice and clean it was. Everything looked great, the carpet was laid on the walkways and everything was vacuumed. I can't imagine how many staff members that took and I'm sure they were up all night. I think even Santa would be impressed. In 30 minutes, the show was to open its doors to the attendees and yes, I was a little nervous but soon the nerves hit the back seat and I was feeling at ease after speaking with only a few interested parties. After I did a few short demos I realized I know a little more than I give myself credit for. As the attendees walked by I started asking if they created WPS or PQR’s? Some looked at me confused saying, “I don’t even know what those are” while others were a little reluctant to let me know “yes, I do” which then I was able to show them the software and give them a few things to take with them. The next 3 days went without a hiccup, except for my aching legs and feet.
On the days I had a few hours to walk around I was in complete awe at the size of the show and some of the booths. There is no way someone could attend every booth in one day and I'm not even sure you could do it all in four days unless you only did a drive by. I was very pleased to see “Workshops for Warriors” was there, we donated software for the wounded vets that attend their free programs. I even got a T-shirt to represent the cause. My favorite thing to watch was the metal stamping booths. I walked away with these two gems.
Nightlife in Chicago is like an episode of Chicago Fire off the TV. Even though I’m not a big city kind of girl I do like to shop! I hear Chicago is great for the shopping but what I enjoyed the most was the food. I finally got to have some deep-dish pizza, that was amazing. I will never view pizza again the same way. On the 4 nights, I was there I only got out once for shopping and decided to walk back to the motel on the way back to see the sights. I’m proud to admit I didn’t buy a thing to take home but really enjoyed myself and indulged in another pizza just because it was so good the first time. Also, did you know they have a Nutella café?
My Final Thoughts
We need a better display. As people walked by they seemed to be searching on our display as to what our smart, serious, software does? That information was at the bottom, usually blocked by our chairs. Move that up to the top in big letters is my advice for the next show, people should be able to take one glance and know what it is we are selling. I found out the 6-inch rulers we brought with our logo and website were a hit and great conversation starters.
Try to take a customer as a sidekick, their testimony as to how the software performs is unprecedented. We invited Bob O’Neal with World Testing Inc. and in my opinion, he was great at speaking with the attendees. I will take a few of his start the conversation lines with me to the next tradeshow! I noticed people hide their badges if they don’t want to be bothered. Badges give away information depending on job title or industry, attendee or exhibitor. So, I mostly would say good morning or good afternoon to those individuals to see if I could even gain their attention to proceed.
I would like to continue attending tradeshows and if I am to go again I promise to wear the most comfortable shoes possible, greet everyone with a smile whether I can see their badge or not and enjoy the experience of all that it has to offer!
If you would like to learn more about what our smart software, serious service looks like please visit our website. www.thinkcei.com
Or you can call me at (800) 473-1976 and ask for Tammy.