How to Plan your Trip to IAAPA

In our 20 years, we’ve been to A LOT of trade shows and events; some big, some small. And as past operators, we’ve also seen many of these same trade shows from your perspective as an attendee. Over time, we’ve learned the best ways to get the most out of these events. Since the upcoming IAAPA Expo is the biggest and most intense show of the year, we want to share some of these tips with you.

Create Goals

You are spending time and money to attend this event. If you just show up and wander aimlessly without any sort of plan, this trip will be a waste. So ask yourself some questions: What do you hope to accomplish? What attractions do you need to add? What do you need to learn? Spend some time and come up with a few main goals or objectives for the show. Then plan your educational seminars and booth meetings around these goals.

Attend Educational Seminars

IAAPA has a huge variety of educational seminars. These sessions aren’t included in the standard trade show registration ticket (it costs extra). But if you’re already an IAAPA member, these seminars are free. And if you’re not a member, you should definitely consider paying for these sessions. Before you travel to Orlando, review the schedule and decide which seminars you want to attend. Then add these to your calendar so you don’t forget.

Even if 90% of what you hear in the educational sessions is stuff you already know, that other 10% could be magic. Just a couple nuggets could boost your revenue by thousands of dollars, improve your customer service, and make you more profitable.

On the flip side, if you come away from these sessions with an entire list of things you want to implement in your business, you might feel overwhelmed. We recommend cutting that list down to 3-5 of the highest impact items. Implement those first, then you can look at the rest of the list. We say this from experience. If you try do everything at once, none of it will actually get done. It’s better to focus on the big things first.


Schedule Booth Meetings

Once you know your goals and you’ve scheduled your educational seminars, set up booth meetings with the appropriate vendors. You should know who these vendors are based on the goals you set in the first step. Please note, we don’t mean that you should just walk up to these booths – this can work, but there’s a better way. Instead, we highly recommend scheduling a specific time with a specific person from that company. This show is insanely busy, and without an appointment you run the risk of your contact at the company being busy when you stop by.

Some vendors (like us) make this really easy. For example, just contact your Creative Works rep to schedule an appointment (email us). We will schedule it in our system, and you’ll even get text reminders about the meeting. We love technology! And even if you don’t have a scheduled meeting, we’ve prepared our team so that anyone from our company can assist you, answer your questions, or help you secure your show special.

Attend Parties

The trade show floor is open from 10am to 6pm everyday (10am to 4pm on Friday), but your day doesn’t have to end at 6pm. The evenings are perfect times to grab dinners with key people, attend networking events, and go to parties. A lot of vendors host various client appreciation parties throughout the week. In fact, we might have tickets available for one of our parties. Email us to find out!


Be Flexible

So far, we’ve talked about creating schedules and setting appointments. But you also have to be flexible. Build free time into your schedule. What will you do during this free time? It doesn’t matter. Maybe you’ll want to take a break and grab a coffee. Perhaps you want to take a nap. Or maybe you’d like to wander the aisle to see what cool things you can find. This flex time will help keep you sane and account for the eventual hiccups; meetings run long, you have to cross the entire show floor, etc.

Other Tips

This section is a series of smaller tips that will help you during the week.

  • Bring comfortable shoes: You’re going to do a lot of walking. Seriously, if you haven’t been to this show before, be prepared. There are more than 9 miles of aisles in the convention center. Also, bring a second pair of shoes so you can change out when the first pair get uncomfortable.
  • Plan extra time for parking: Speaking of walking, you’ll likely be parking a good distance from the convention center entrance. You can’t expect to pull up at 9:50am and make it to a booth on the show floor by 10:00am. So make sure you arrive early for parking. The show floor opens at 10:00am, which means you’ll be fighting with thousands of other attendees to get through the entrance. It’s probably a good idea to book your first appointments at 10:30am to make sure you have enough time to get there.
  • Request digital literature and brochures: Most people grab brochures from every vendor they visit, which is great! But this is a lot to carry around. Request digital versions of their literature so you don’t have to carry as much stuff. At Creative Works, we make this easy. We have special links you can use on your phone, and the files will be sent to your email inbox!
  • Bring a portable charger for your phone: We can’t tell you how many times attendees come up to us asking if we have a phone charge they can use. We all know the anxiety that kicks in when our phones hit 10% battery. So bring a charger and avoid the anxiety!

If you implement these tips into your trade show plan, everything will go more smoothly. You’ll accomplish more, see more people, and walk away knowing you got the most value possible out of the trip.