1. Draw up a list of objectives for attending the exhibition. Define what you want to achieve eg to get an overview of certain types of software, see the latest software functionality, or to meet certain vendors.
2. Plan your visit. Make a shortlist of exhibitors, software demonstrations, educational or other sessions you wish to see. Don’t consider spending all day doing one type of thing eg only attending vendor software demonstrations - they’ll end up sounding and looking alike and you’ll end up being confused. Plan a balance of visiting stands, meeting vendors, discussing your requirements, as well as attending demonstrations.
3. Attend with colleagues to spread the workload. Decide in advance who is attending, who shall see what and when. Aim to cover all items, with colleagues splitting up to cover different parts of the exhibition.
4. Work out how you will get to the exhibition - so that you arrive on time and are able to complete everything. If you are attending for more than one day and need overnight accommodation, book well in advance.
5. Mark the locations of the stands / demonstrations you wish to see on an exhibition layout planner so you know your way round and can save time / avoid getting lost when you are there.
At the exhibition
6. Follow your visit plan. Ensure you cover the areas you wish to see. Don’t get side-tracked once at the exhibition - you can use any time left over at the end to visit other stands which look interesting.
7. If attending with colleagues - use the opportunity to quickly obtain a large amount of information and to network / obtain contacts for later use. Work the exhibition - don’t just stay together or treat as a day out of the office!
8. Take a copy of your key system requirements* with you (especially any mandatory requirements) - to refer to / discuss with vendors / exhibitors.
9. Take plenty of business cards - to hand out to exhibitors (and to save filling in their forms with your details).
10. Review the information you have obtained and write up notes / ideas as applicable. Discuss with colleagues. Then determine which software vendors you wish to follow up on and investigate further.
* If you have yet to complete your system requirements, see the Accounting, BI, CRM, HR, Payroll and HR+Payroll RFI/RFP Templates - which can help you quickly identify and specify your new system requirements.