You’ve decided to attend a trade show, great!  Here are the top seven things to do before you go.

1. First and foremost, plan ahead. There’s nothing more stressful than deciding to attend the trade show the month of. It will usually result in tasks being delegated to the wrong people, a halt in production, and overall strain to the business. The point of attending the show is to enhance business operations long term, not set the company back due to your absence. Planning well in advance will allow you to properly manage your time and projects so you understand what needs to happen before you leave. Figure out who will cover roles while other employees are out of the office and ensure you don’t come home to a mountain of work, or even worse, mistakes.

2. Do your research. Make sure you are aware of who will be at the trade show. If you’re looking for a specialty item, make sure there are vendors at the expo who provide what you need. Some dealers may only attend certain days of the show, or key people may only be available during certain hours. Doing your research goes hand-in-hand with planning. Once you have read the vendor lists, you can draft a loose itinerary of what to do, when to do it, and most importantly, what needs to be accomplished.

3. Leave a plan for your employees who stay behind. If you run a small business and call all the shots, employees feel like chickens with their heads cut off when they have to make decisions in your absence. To ease everyone’s mind, including yours, draft up the days’ plans or a list of what needs to be accomplished while you’re gone. This should also include what is a priority and what can wait until you return. If you’re taking everyone but your receptionist and graphic designer to the expo, it might not be a bad idea to close the shop for a day or two. Of course, make sure doing so is viable for your business. If you run a larger shop, delegate who will be in charge during your absence and make sure everyone is aware of who that person is.

4. Tagging on to tip #3, hold a brief company meeting. Use a short meeting to cover what the goal of the trade show visit is with those who are attending with you, and detail to those staying at the office what protocol is in regards to the to-do list. Also, use the meeting to let those who will be directly working with the equipment explain their pain points and what they would wish for from a new piece of equipment. Get everyone on the same page so you can enjoy the expo to its fullest.

5. Dress appropriately. Before you leave it would be a smart idea to put some thought into what you’re going to wear. Remember that you have long days ahead of you but that you are still representing your company. If you’re going to wear jeans, bring your nicer pairs, and finish them with a company polo or button-down. Company T-shirts are fine as long as they are in good shape. You’ll be doing a lot of walking so bring your most comfortable shoes. Remember to pack light because you are guaranteed to leave with brochures, freebies, and other miscellaneous things you pick up throughout your day. Be sure to grab one of the free promo bags from either the host of the trade show or a vendor so you can carry all the items you collect.

6. The main reason you decided to attend the trade show is that you are looking to test out equipment with the end goal of buying at the show or in the future. Before replacing or bringing in new equipment, measure the dimensions of the available space you have and write it down. This helps the reps better serve you and ensure that you have room to fit and operate the machine.

7. If you plan on buying at the trade show make sure you have an established budget. Be realistic and remember it’s okay in this setting to negotiate prices. This is where you can get vendors to sell you at the lowest cost. Speak to them about installment dates and running time, and ask for them to reduce costs if they are not able to get it by the date you are shooting for.  For large purchases, you can get the necessary funding at the industry’s lowest payment when you finance through American Capital Group, all before or while at the show. As a direct lender, that has been in the industry for decades, American Capital Group has the ability to customize programs to your specific business needs and ensure that you stay within budget. See how much funding is available to your business by providing some basic company information here.

Now that you have covered these seven areas, you and your team are ready to make the most of your trade show visit.