You guessed it! The Internet Retailer Conference + Exhibition is back and bigger than ever. This year’s IRCE at McCormick Place in Chicago opened on Tuesday, June 6. This massive event is known to “provide you with a conference full of industry experts and unrivaled agenda content, an exhibit hall filled with the latest and greatest from solution providers, and a community made for networking with thousands of like-minded industry peers” (According to www.irce.com).
For those of you who have never been to a conference like IRCE, it is certainly a sight to see. Hundreds and hundreds of exhibitors and sellers gather to share insights, launch new products and more. This year, I had the privilege of being able to attend the trade show on opening day.
I decided to use my few hours at the expo to take in the incredible atmosphere. Typically, people involved in the internet retail industry work from online platforms. So seeing these companies take their values/missions and create a physical display resulted in a ton of varied ideas. With an expo filled with similar ideas, it can be difficult to captivate an audience. What makes your company stand out from others? How can you draw people into looking at your display instead of the one next to you? The thought and detail that must go into every aspect of a trade show display is meticulously planned… but so should be how you plan to get the most out of your trade show experience.
Check out a couple of my steps below for first time trade show go-ers (like I was!)
1) Game Plan
Attending a big tech conference like IRCE can be overwhelming… to say the least. With rows and rows of companies that often appear to sound like they do exactly the same thing, doing a bit of research before attending is not a bad idea. Pretty much every trade show/conference will post an exhibitor list and a floor plan. In a place that is 250,000+ square feet, a floor plan is a pretty valuable tool. If your thought was that you could just walk right into something like IRCE, I would think again. With over 600 companies, you could spend days walking around McCormick Place and still not have a chance to see everything or speak to everyone. By using the exhibiter list/floor plan it will help you to get the most value out of your trade show experience.
2) Come Hungry
Like everything, the most creative and interactive displays tend to draw the largest crowds, so I would highly recommend coming hungry. It seemed like almost every other company had cookies, popcorn, candy, ice cream (!!), bite sized sandwiches, energy bars, and more. It is safe to say that I did not eat much at dinner that night.
As you can probably imagine, in order to fit over 600 companies into one room, you are going to have to have a pretty large room. That being said, high heels or brand new, unbroken in, shoes, would probably not be your wisest decision. My advice: WEAR GOOD WALKING SHOES. Seriously. The last thing you will want is to be in pain while you are trying to do business or network. Yes, I would recommend taking your appearance into account (dress for success – it’s a valid life motto), but you do not need to be walking around in 5 inch stiletto heels or your new dress shoes with rock solid leather. You will hit your steps goal 3x over again at one of these conferences. Plus, many of the booths give you a chance for some physical activity… How good is your putting or your jump shot? Just saying… Prizes might be in store.
4) Don’t Be Afraid to Stand Out
Whether you are an exhibiter, a seller, or just a regular-old attendee, do NOT be afraid to stand out and go outside of your comfort zone. For example, I wore a neon pink blouse to IRCE. I did not do this on purpose, but if I had to do it again, I would 100% do the same thing. If your goal is to network and make connections, standing out from the crowd is one of the easiest ways to strike up a conversation. “Girl in the hot pink! That is one bright shirt. What is your name? What do you do?” VOILA! Now go talk their ear off.
5) Be Prepared
I’m going to assume this is a pretty obvious one… but do not show up unprepared. What does that mean? Have an ample supply of your business cards on deck, a pen, phone charger (those conference centers are a real battery drainer), a short “elevator speech” (My name is ___ from ___. I am here for ____…. etc), and your biggest, brightest SMILE! No one wants to talk to a Debby Downer.
Over all, attending your first big trade show can be pretty intimidating, but as long as you do your research, be yourself, and come ready for a full day, you will be absolutely fine. If you do end up going to IRCE this week – check out some of the super cool and interactive booths put on by CloudCraze and Salesforce. Also, look out for the booth with the ice cream frozen by liquid nitrogen – highly recommend grabbing a sample of that. Your tummy will thank you.