How to Maximize Your Sourcing Time at Trade Shows

How do you maximize your time at busy trade shows?

Every trade show calls for a commitment of time- even when you know what you want for your fashion design business. The typical show stretches on from the early morning to at least the late afternoon, for a period of about two to three days. While it may be a considerable amount of time to be away from the office, it’s actually very limited when you weigh all the typical show has to offer.

Get results and leave feeling accomplished. Use our tried-and-true tips to maximize your sourcing time at your next trade show event.

Arrive with a Plan.

Most fashion industry trade shows, particularly those for sourcing, feature staggering numbers of vendors. Plan ahead of time. Map out a strategy including who you want to meet, where they’ll present and how much time you’ll need to cover everyone on your list. Or, alternatively, take advantage of concierge services, an offer increasingly presented by more and more shows. Tell the concierge what you want to source for your fashion design business, and they’ll suggest where to go and the contacts to meet.

Book Appointments with Busy Vendors.

You may already know which brands or fabric suppliers you’d like to see. If they’re popular and in demand, secure an appointment prior to the show. A lack of planning could mean there won’t be anyone to assist you upon arriving to their booth.

Exude Confidence.

Be confident in conversation. Master your elevator pitch so you can quickly and confidently explain what you do, the essence of your fashion design business and what it is you seek. Trade shows are designed for doing business. Be respectful of vendors’ time. If you need longer conversations (i.e. you’re new to the business and have many questions), arrange to meet for drinks after the show.

The Elevator Pitch

You’ll discover serious professionals at every booth. They can quickly determine who is serious and who says what they mean based on language and confidence levels. Perfect your elevator pitch and get to know the basic terminology relevant to the shows you’ll attend. It will show you mean business and help you to acquire additional information.

Think of the trade show as a matchmaking tool, as opposed to simply shopping in a store. Arrive knowing what you’re looking for and what you have to offer.

Choose Workshops and Seminars Wisely.

Most trade shows offer a slew of seminars and workshops. They inform and educate while adding a more interactive, experiential aspect to the shows. Events can be great, but there is a caveat- attending talks cuts into the time you could be meeting with potential partners. So choose wisely. Find out who is speaking and only attend if the topics are truly relevant to your current or upcoming needs or if you’d like to meet a particular speaker. Only attend when it makes the most sense for you.

Note: I present regularly at WWDMAGIC- especially the Las Vegas edition. Subscribe to the Scaling Retail newsletter (and follow us on social media) and you’ll never miss an event.

Go Home with 3 Major Takeaways.

Trade shows are comprehensive, expensive, and often exhausting too. Make them worth your while. Go home knowing you’ve extracted something from the show. Whatever your three major takeaways will be, is up to you. They can be three new pieces of information; the takeaways can be new ways of doing business or the contacts of three potential new partners. You decide.

Make a Post-Show Review.

Due to the sheer size and scope of the average trade show, it isn’t likely you engaged with every point of interest. Now is the time to dig deeper into everything you tracked. Review all of your material within the week after the show, including notes and any images (i.e. booths and signs of interest). Dive deep into research on vendors and resources of interest; reach out to everyone you’ve met before they can forget about you or your fashion design business.

The right trade shows can be amazing resources. They bring together global resources and brands you may not otherwise have been able to discover by searching online. This is particularly true where production and sourcing are concerned. The ones that are online tend to have lackluster websites with little or no concern for SEO – even sites of long-established, professional businesses. Do the bulk of your sourcing through live means – word-of-mouth, referrals and trade shows.

Are you scaling up or preparing to launch your fashion design business? Contact us to book your 30 minute consultation session. We’ll determine if we’re truly the right fit and get the initial impressions of your business’ needs. If we continue to work together, we’ll develop custom strategies and recommendations, working with you through execution. Call us at 310-957-5264 or email hello@scalingretail.com.

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