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Trade Show Guide – 16 Tips to Succeed at ASI Orlando and PPAI Expo

2018 is here, and that means it’s tradeshow season! Heading to ASI Orlando, or PPAI in Vegas? Planning ahead with this trade show guide can save you a lot of headaches, and will help you make the most of your trip. The tradeshow pilgrimage is a big investment of your time and your money, so make the most of it! Here are a few tips to help you prepare — doing so will give you a much better return, and you’ll be able to pass the value along to your clients, too!

Before the Show:

  1. Create a “shopping list” from your clients. This helps you stay on track with what to look for and to avoid time-wasting distractions.
  2. Contact your clients and prospects before you leave. Send them a short note that you’ll be attending a large industry expo, and let them know you’ll be on the lookout for new products and campaign ideas for the coming year. Ask them about any future projects they’ve got in the pipeline. Ask about their goals for 2018, and any new challenges they want to overcome. Make a list to carry with you so you can look for samples and product ideas that could fulfill their needs.
  3. Review the education classes and make a daily itinerary of the classes you want to attend. See the ASI Orlando Education schedule and the PPAI Expo Education schedule
  4. Make a list of your top suppliers and their booth numbers – take a look at the floor plan, or better yet, download the mobile app for each trade show to help you organize your time.
    • For ASI: download the EventMobi Experience app, then enter the event code: ASIShowOrlando18 – this app allows you to search for exhibitors, review the show schedule, look up course descriptions and speaker bios, find booth locations, create your own agenda, see live coverage on social media, and receive important alerts.
    • Browse the ASI Orlando Floor Plan
    • For PPAI: Browse the PPAI Expo Floor Plan
    • Download the SAGE mobile app for PPAI which lets you:
      • Search for exhibitors by company name and quickly find their booth number
      • Create a walk list and share it with your co-workers
      • View an interactive show floor plan
      • Search products from the exhibitors in attendance
      • Add notes, pictures, video and audio recordings on products and suppliers that interest you for easy reference after the show
      • View the education schedule to plan out your day, then take notes during the sessions and email them to yourself or your colleagues
      • Connect with fellow attendees on all things Expo in the newly added Discussion Area


Don’t forget to pack:

  • A power bank (or two) to keep your phone charged (make sure you have enough space cleared off on your phone for pictures, too!)
  • Notebook and pen for education notes, product notes, contact info, and post-show reminders
  • Comfy walking shoes and good socks
  • lip balm & lotion
  • refillable water bottle – it’s very easy to get dehydrated! Free water stations at PPAI – every time you refill your bottle you save $5. Drinking lots of water helps prevent illness, soreness, and fatigue.
  • Healthy snacks and energy bars – save money and time by eating on the go!
  • Hand sanitizer & wipes
  • Vitamins / Tylenol
  • Comfy, professional clothes
  • Nightwear for mixers and social meetings
  • FitBit – you’ll be amazed at how many steps you’ll take on the show floor!
  • A written plan of specific vendors and products you want to see
  • A sense of humor and an open mind
  • Optional: a second rolling bag to pack catalogs and samples from the show- shipping services are offered on-site, but can be pricey

During the Expo:

  1. Walk the floor with a buddy, co-worker, regional pal or neighbor. Multiple sets of eyes and ears are always good. Some companies actually split up the floor and meet during lunches or to share their best finds.
  2. Visit the new products pavilion early on if possible. Take pictures of items that you like, then put them on your planned route.
  3. Plan out the top suppliers you want to see first – visit them early in the morning before the floor is crowded, then visit the rest.
  4. Get plenty of rest, and take breaks when you need them
  5. Take product pictures with business cards in them, or a short demo video
  6. Ask specific questions: Get a little deeper with your suppliers than just asking, “what’s new?” Instead, get specific. Try asking, “Do you have a suggestion for something to help my client target millennials at a college campus event?” Or, “My banking client is looking for a unique, memorable gift under $20 to give new accounts this year. What do you recommend?” Ask questions that will help them partner with you to provide the most value to you and your customer.  Chat with the multi-line reps and suppliers about what you’re working on, who your clients are, what challenges you face. Let them show you how their products will work for you. Ask each company the best seller for the best price, too – for those clients with tight budgets.
  7. Keep your phone charged – use it to take pictures of products AND SUPPLIER INFO that interests you. Make sure you get the vendor sign, or business card with contact info in the photo also, for easier follow up. This helps you stay organized digitally
  8. Go to as many education sessions as you can! Ask questions. Introduce yourself to the speakers afterward. Get to know the key players that can help you get connected into the community.
  9. Lastly, by getting connected to the right people, get yourself invited to the right parties! Take some time to let loose and have fun.  The Promo Kitchen Mixer is a great one — RSVP on the promo kitchen website.

After the Expo:

  1. Review your notes from the show floor and from education sessions. Highlight the most important items for follow up (start with 10). Send emails to your clients or start putting your proposals together while you wait at the airport to fly home.
  2. Connect with your new friends on Commonsku, LinkedIn or Facebook – grow your network, and stay in touch with other distributors and suppliers!
  3. Write a blog post. Share your new wealth of knowledge with your clients. Write at least one blog post, or a small series of posts with the best business tips you learned from the show. This makes great content for your social media pages, your website, and your email blasts. It also makes you look like more of an expert on marketing and promotional solutions, and can help you grow your business, too.

Whether you’re new to the promotional products industry, or an ol’ seasoned pro, we hope this list helps you get the most out of your 2018 trade show visits. See you in Orlando and Vegas! Did we miss something? Leave us a comment below with your best tips for this Trade Show Guide to success!

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