How to Gain More Value from Your Trade Show Visit


Getting the most value out of attending a trade show or convention, like the NAHB International Builders’ Show® (IBS), begins with a plan. Before you ever set foot inside the Orange County Convention Center, use the five Ws as a guide for planning what you want to accomplish during your 2017 IBS stay.

Identify who you need to meet with, seek out and/or get in front of while you are there. This can range from meeting with a business mentor or colleague to seeking out a potentially new business partnership. Think about talking with a few product reps that can help you solve a problem, or design professionals that you admire, to see if there is any synergy in working together. For vendors and suppliers, the show may be a good time for you to identify a few companies that you’d like to introduce yourself to in person—with a promise to follow up after the show.

This category can be broken down into two sub-categories: What you need to do while you are there and what you need to bring.

What do you need to do?
There is never enough time to do everything you’d like, so prioritizing events and activities is a must. What do you need to attend (required) and what would you like to attend?

Required events can include council/committee meetings if you are an NAHB member, Master sessions that you’ve pre-registered for and events such as mixers or awards programs.

Once you’ve attended the Opening Ceremonies with keynote speaker Peyton Manning, this category could also include those items you’ve identified as vital to your business. These may be: attending a High Performance Building Zone (HPBZ) demonstration, visiting The New American Home and/or The New American Remodeled Home or attending specific education sessions and/or design review workshops.

You’ll also want to dedicate time every day for walking the show floor. Spending time on the show floor is your best way to get information on the latest products, tools and software (and so much more) that will help you in business. Make it point to tour the outdoor exhibit area and also visit nextBuild— the special area inside the show dedicated to home automation and technology. 


What do you need to bring?Based on the high-priority activities you’ve identified, what do you now need to bring?

One tip is to make sure that you have easy access to any documents/files you’ll need. With so many of us saving files to a cloud, we often forget that at trade shows, WiFi can often be slow as mud because thousands of people are using the Internet. For this reason, before your trip, save the documents you’ll need to the hard drive of your laptop or tablet, so you don’t have to access the Internet and potentially waste valuable time. It may also make sense to bring hard copies of your designs and other documents; this will make it easier to spread them out and make notes as you work with the experts.

Other items to consider packing include:

  • A refillable water bottle that you can fill up at your hotel before going to the convention center
  • A package of blister cushions, especially if you aren’t accustomed to walking
  • A comfortable pair of shoes. Don’t be surprised to see sneakers on the feet of those walking the trade show floors
  • A portable charger/power pack for your phone
  • Plenty of business cards so you can easily exchange information to stay in touch with those you meet after the show.

Your trade show experience will be a lot more enjoyable when you aren’t worried about details, so put all of your travel information in one spot. Include the airline you are flying with and where you need to be at what time. Also important is where you are staying (hotel name and address), as well as how you plan to get to and from the hotel (shuttle, taxi, car rental) and convention center.

Along with where you need to be, you’ll also want to organize a daily schedule of events. Here are a few tools you can use in creating your daily agenda.

  • also posts a full listing of exhibits, education and events and is always up to date. There, you can purchase tickets to special events, such as the Official IBS House Party, Closing Concert and Young Pro Party, if they aren’t sold out. Under the “Education” tab, you can search for education and events. This is a handy search feature if you want to focus on one of the 8 tracks, such as Business Management & Operations or 55+ Housing, for instance.
  • The official IBS mobile app gives you access to the show at your fingertips. You can set your daily schedule by adding exhibitors you want to visit and sessions you plan to attend. You can also add non-IBS related appointments inside the app—keeping your daily schedule organized and in one spot. Look for the 2017 Builders’ Show app in December. 
  • The Official IBS Show Guide can be picked up at the convention center and is typically available the day before the show opens. It will contain a full listing of education sessions, events on the show floor and inside the Centrals, awards presentations and more.

Let’s face it. At some point during your time at IBS, the toll of your jammed-packed schedule will make your energy plummet. When that happens, the temptation is high to skip a business-building event or an education session that will bring new insights to light, so it is helpful to remember why you initially put those items on your schedule. Remember, IBS gives you three full days of concentrated focus on your business. Don’t waste them.

Finally, while how you accomplish everything will be determined by how well you prioritize and plan ahead of time, keep in mind that equally important is weaving in a little time each day for relaxing and fun. Ultimately, you will get more value, insights and tips from your trade show experience when you add a little downtime to the agenda, too.

Continue to follow our blog for more tips and ideas for maximizing your time at the Builders’ Show. You can also discover why All Homes Start Here—at

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