Brown suggests that first-time attendees systematically walk through the entire show once, briefly looking at each exhibit. From there, they can choose which exhibits they want to visit again for more detailed information. A seasoned trade-show attendee, Brown says this is how she approaches most shows. "I hit every exhibit table," she says. "That means I don't stop and chat. I walk quickly and pick up all the materials."
If an exhibitor tries to pressure her, Brown says she has a tight schedule to maintain and that she'll be in touch later. "The next booth might have something better. If you commit to the first one, you'll miss out," she says, adding that this is another reason to go through the show quickly once before talking to exhibitors.
During her second pass through, Brown stops to talk, asks questions, and gathers additional information only from those booths which she believes have the potential to provide her business with customers, equipment, vendors or other valuable products and services.
James Washington of New York City advises a similar strategy. Wishing to launch his own small business, he attended both days of Entrepreneur Magazine's Small Business Expo, held in Atlanta in May of 1996, spending the first day looking at each exhibit and gathering information. He returned the second day for a more in-depth look at a select number of exhibits.
"Look at everybody the first time around. When you go around again, start thinking in terms of what's at each particular exhibit versus what you want to do for the rest of your life. I didn't stop at any booth if I didn't want to do that kind of work for the rest of my life," says Washington, a city health department worker planning to buy into Universal Liquidators, a business opportunity he learned about at the show.