From time to time, I get asked by clients what they should do on a trade show floor to make connections with prospects without actually having a display booth. I tell them they shouldn’t even attempt it.
Believe it or not, this happens often enough that there’s a name for it in the trade: “suitcasing.” It comes from people walking around the floor with a suitcase full of their sales materials and trying to make sales. Every major show, and most smaller ones have a policy against suitcasing that can, at the very minimum, get you thrown out of the show for the duration.
If you want to go check out a show to see if it’s a good fit, but all means, do so. Many of these shows management companies will issue a visitor pass just for that reason – after all, they’d like to have your exhibit dollars next year.
If you want to make sales, but can’t afford to have a display booth, don’t cheapen the show by suitcasing. It’s disrespectful to the people who paid to exhibit and it doesn’t put forth an ethical and successful business image to the attendees.
Finally, if you attend a show with the intention of trying to sell to the vendors who are there – please don’t. They are there to connect with prospects and clients. They paid good money to have a booth and have spent additional time, money and energy to put together the materials to make the show successful for them. The last thing they want to do is hear your sales pitch while their prospects and clients are walking by because you’re taking up their time and space.