Time Well Spent

Take these nuggets of advice from a Pumper & Cleaner Expo veteran to help you get the most out of your trip to Indy.

When I pull the car into downtown Indianapolis in February, it will mark the beginning of my 10th Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo International. It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was on my first trip to the Expo in Nashville in 2005. I couldn’t believe the enthusiasm I saw from the mo-ment I stepped off the airplane.

“Vee love za pumpas,’’ a woman with a thick German accent said, greeting me in the airport. From that airport worker to the hotel hospitality staff, and from the exhibitors to regular Expo attendees — there’s a thrill and excitement every time the show rolls around. It’s been the same in Nashville, Louisville, and now my new personal favorite Expo venue in Indy.

After walking the exhibit hall for three days and while I’m making the car ride home to Wisconsin, my mind sometimes wanders to the advice I would give first-time Expo attendees to make their trip to the industry’s biggest show more enjoyable. What tips could I impart that would help them get the most out of the trade show experience?

This year, I decided to jot down some of my ideas for first-timers and experienced Expo attendees alike and present them before the big event. I hope at least one of these nuggets from an Expo veteran will be helpful come Feb. 24-27 at the Indiana Convention Center:

Get comfortable

Hitting the Expo is more about endurance than speed. With four days (Education Day and three exhibit days), you have time to slow down and take it all in. But you should be prepared to feel refreshed and ready to go every morning.

My first tip is to wear comfortable shoes and have two pairs so you can alternate by days. I buy one new pair of quality shoes every winter and break them in for Expo duty. You don’t want tired, sore feet to take away from your experience.

Also remember to drink plenty of water and bring along lip balm. The dry indoor air at a trade show can be dehydrating. Ample snacks and refreshments are available at the Expo. It’s also good to step outside for some fresh air a few times a day. And though there’s so much to do and see with your industry friends after show hours, be sure to get plenty of sleep. When you get up in the morning, have a good breakfast, as your mother always told you.

Have a system to cover the exhibit hall

The vast exhibit floor can be an imposing sight when you enter the Indiana Convention Center. One look at the show floor map can have a paralyzing effect on first-time visitors. A systematic approach to working the exhibit hall will ensure you don’t miss a vendor you really wanted to see and keep you from passing unnecessarily through the same area multiple times.

I recommend grabbing a map at the registration area and studying it before charging into the hall. Make a mark at all the booths that are “must-sees,” including your existing vendors, all those that carry a product you’re interested in purchasing or new technologies you’re interested in considering for your business. Then divide the exhibitor map by the number of days you have at the Expo. If you’ll be there all three days, draw a grid of three areas to cover. Alternately, you can color code the booth markings to make sure you hit the most important companies in the time you have allotted. The key is to organize your visit to accomplish all of your priorities.

Don’t miss out on education opportunities

Some visitors come just to see the exhibits, and with good reason. You won’t see this extreme collection of environmental services equipment anywhere else. But if you ignore the education opportunities the Expo has to offer, you’re leaving some professional value on the table.

Education Day, on the first day of the Expo, features dozens of classes with some of the industry’s best teachers and presenters. The seminars can often be used to satisfy ongoing training requirements from your state. Or you can attend a variety of marketing sessions that will help you promote and grow your business. Also, you may walk into a class that introduces you to the next service your business can provide to customers. Take time to read the seminar descriptions in the Expo guide and plan your day. And remember, a host of seminars and demonstrations continue in the days after Education Day.

See what your regular vendors have to offer

You might say, “I already know my existing vendors and what they carry, so I should spend my time visiting new exhibits.” That’s true to a degree. But relationship building has always been and will continue to be a big key to success for small businesses. You need face time with the rep that supplies your equipment and inventory of consumable items to make sure you are always top of mind with them in times of need.

Also, an annual sit-down with your suppliers can push you to ask questions, inquire about bulk discounts and look for suggestions about how you can run the business more efficiently. The Expo is a great time to make suggestions for updates to vendors’ products, learn about new innovations and hear about new applications for products you use as a matter of routine.

Buy it off the floor

Do you drive to the Expo? If you typically fly, can you think of an advantage to driving to Indy this time around? The Expo floor is filled with the latest and best products some 500 exhibitors have to offer, and the manufacturers often want to sell displayed equipment so they don’t have to transport it back home. That means you’ll find good deals on exhibited equipment. I’ve talked to contractors who come to the Expo every year intending to purchase a new piece of equipment and either haul or drive it back home. They know exhibitors spec out show equipment with quality in mind and look for a discount on great new equipment. If you’re out for customization, buying equipment off the show floor might not be the best approach for you, but if you see something you really like, you might be able to hook it up to your hitch and go after the event is over.

Find a friend at the roundtable discussions

Many longtime visitors to the Expo have tapped into a little-known networking secret that has paid major dividends. They’ve met a contractor from another part of the country who operates the same kind of business, and now have a trusted friend to strategize with. I’m sure you would often like a friend in the industry to act as a sounding board for your ideas. But the last person you want to turn to is your direct competitor on the other side of town. That’s where the Expo’s roundtable discussions offer untold value.

The breakfast roundtable event on Feb. 27 groups contractors by topic and type of company, creating a perfect opportunity for you to meet others facing similar business challenges. I’ve heard from many attendees who’ve forged lifelong friendships from these networking opportunities. These contractors keep in touch throughout the years and across the country, then meet up every year to enjoy the Expo experience together.

A final word

I hope these tips help you build a memorable and successful visit to the Pumper & Cleaner Expo. Do you want to talk some more? If so, you’ll find me at the editor’s booth near the registration area during the 2014 Expo. See you there!

Early registration costs $50 until Jan. 24. At-the-door registration is $70 for the full program. To find out more, visit www.pumpershow.com or call 866/933-2653.


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