Attending trade shows can go one of two ways. Either they're incredibly profitable, or they end up wasting a lot of your camp staff's time, energy, and money.
Because the latter is so often true, many camps choose not to send their camp directors and other staff to trade shows.
While there is no way to guarantee a trade show's profitability, there are specific qualities you should be using to evaluate whether attending a specific trade show would be worthwhile — as well as signs that a trade show might be a time suck and money waster. Let's look at both in this article!
Will strategic partners be there?
Ideally, you should not bother attending a trade show where you're only interested in connecting with one specific exhibitor. If you really want to talk to one vendor, you can most likely reach out to them online or set up a phone call with them much more affordably than you can attend a trade show.
Plus, what if that one vendor cancels their attendance at the trade show? Then your team's entire trip is unnecessary.
Instead, select a trade show where there are multiple vendors that offer products, services, and opportunities that could benefit your camp. You may even want to look beyond trade shows and consider educational events such as the ACA National Conference. Ultimately, your attendance at a trade show or other event will be as valuable as the connections you make there.
Have you asked other attendees about the show?
If you can get the "inside scoop," do it. Reach out to other camp directors who have attended the show before. Assuming you have a good relationship with these people, make it a point to ask direct questions like:
- "Would you go again?"
- "Was the investment worth the information/products/connections you found?"
- "What will you do differently next time?"
Asking general questions like "How was the trade show overall?" or "Was it organized?" won't do much to help you make a well-informed decision about attending.
Are you letting tradition dictate your attendance?
Many organizations decide on whether or not to attend in trade shows because they either always attend or never attend. Frankly, this is weak criteria for deciding if a trade show is worth your time.
Trade shows are different every year. Maybe you've been sending your staff to a specific trade show for a decade, but each year, you connect with fewer and fewer people who seem educated about a camp's unique culture and its needs. Or perhaps you're skipping over shows in hopes of saving money and missing out on information and ideas that could jumpstart your summer. Be careful about passing up opportunities — or on the other hand, forcing opportunities — simply because your camp is in the habit of doing things the way you've always done them.
Do you have a qualified team?
Trade shows are not vacations, and they should be taken seriously. While your camp's selected attendees are probably excited to get out and have a change of pace, it's important that they recognize their purpose for attending the show. Give them a specific job such as finding a trustworthy mattress vendor, or collecting information about hiring and training summer camp staff.
Have your goals in mind first. This will help you in selecting a.) an appropriate trade show and b.) which people to send. Not only does your team need to have a full understanding of your camp, its mission, and its goals, but they should also be engaging and enjoy talking to exhibitors and potential partners.
What's your budget?
Camp is a special place, but even there, money doesn't grow on trees. Set a realistic budget for your trade show. This budget should include travel and tickets to the show as well as lodging if necessary. Keep in mind, the further the show is away and the larger the team you're sending, the more expensive this endeavor will be.
Would next year be better?
Trade shows have a way of sneaking up on us. If you missed the early bird special for buying tickets, and you're having trouble making last minute travel arrangements, there's always next year! Sometimes it's better to give yourself more time to adequately prepare for a potentially profitable trade show than it is to rush into it before you're ready and then fail to accomplish the goals you had set.
Speaking of trade shows...
We attend trade shows from time to time. If you'd like to see us at one, contact us to find out where we'll be!