The beginning of the year is a popular time for trade shows, and trade shows are great opportunities for businesses and consumers alike. For businesses, the shows allow you to display your products and meet potential clients face to face. Consumers are given the opportunity to shop around and compare different businesses in one place, so they can find the one that best suits their needs.

Trade shows can vary from home and garden shows to wedding extravaganzas, so no matter your business or what you’re in the market for, there is a trade show for you. Use these tips from your Better Business Bureau to make the most of your trade show experience:

For businesses

• Plan ahead. Give yourself time to prepare. Reserve your booth as far in advance as you can, recruit team members to join you and determine strategy. Will everyone be at the booth talking to potential customers, or will you have someone walking the floor to network? Consider training your team members on how to answer FAQs about your business.

• Post on social media. Make the most of your social media presence to let your current followers know about the show you’ll be attending. Post about it ahead of time and be active with your posting during the trade show so your followers can keep up with you. Social media is also a great way for new clients to connect with you after they leave the show.

• Offer freebies. Have items at your booth for attendees to take away with them. Free items will draw people to your booth and can be used as marketing if they have your logo, website or social media info on them.

• Don’t wait to follow up. Bring along a tablet, laptop or other device you can document leads on. If someone is interested in your business or product, offer to take down their information so you can email them more information later. Don’t wait too long after the show to follow up, otherwise the lead may have lost interest or found another provider.

For consumers

• Plan ahead. Trade shows can be overwhelming for attendees, especially if there are too many vendors to see in one day. Check the list of vendors ahead of time and see if any of them require appointments. When you arrive, get a map of where each vendor is located, so you can easily find exactly who you’re looking for.

• Create a budget. There will probably be opportunities to make purchases at the trade show. Decide ahead of time how much money you’re willing to spend on which items and stick to your budget.

• Look for workshops. Most shows also have seminars and workshops to attend in addition to booths. Not only can this offer a break between vendors, but you may leave with tips or ideas from industry experts.

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