Making the Most of Cannabis Trade Shows

If you attend a lot of trade shows like I do, then you know how tiring they can be. So many booths, so many seminars, so many vendors and attendees vying for your attention… it can seem endless. Cannabis industry shows can be especially overwhelming; sometimes it seems like a circus. But you’re not there to have fun; you’re there to do business.  

Cannabis industry trade shows can be a powerful tool to can take your business to the next level. How can you make sure to leverage time at a show efficiently? It’s all about planning and prioritizing.

Scope It Out

Before anything else, you’ll want to make sure that you’re attending the right show. You’ve probably already noticed that there are a lot of events dedicated to marijuana cultivation, processing, manufacturing, and sales. But not all cannabis events are created equal. How can you decide which to attend? Here are some tips.

  • Take a look at the show’s website to identify which companies will be there. Are these the companies you’re trying to attract as customers? Do you recognize any of the names, or do they all look like fly-by-night operations?
  • Which seminars are on the schedule? Does the program look robust, or is it just some exhibitor pitches that have been slapped together? Is the educational lineup presented clearly and promoted well, or do you have to struggle to find any information?
  • Finally, try to estimate how large the show is. Some shows are very small -- is it really worth travel and booth expenses to see a few prospects, when you can meet many times more at a better show?

Once you’ve decided on the right cannabis trade show, pre-register and book a room in the hotel where the other attendees will be staying, to allow for plenty of networking opportunities outside of the trade show as well.

Next, you’ll want to make a list of which vendors you’d like to visit at the trade show, and narrow down your choices to an A-list and a B-list. This is critical, and makes all the difference between a successful, targeted trade show experience and a few days of wandering aimlessly up and down the convention floor!

The vendors that make it onto your A-list should be your first priority. You can download a map for most cannabis trade shows online ahead of time, so that you can mark where your A-list and B-list vendors are located. You’ll also want to list any seminars that are important for you to attend.

Make a Schedule

Next, it’s time to make a schedule of how you plan to spend your time at the trade show. If possible, set up appointments ahead of time with the vendors on your A-list. Try to schedule your most important appointments for the very beginning or very end of the day, and leave plenty of time between appointments.

Once you have your appointments in place, you can create a schedule to visit the rest of the vendors, based on their locations on the floor. Make sure to leave yourself extra time in your schedule for appointments that run over or serendipitous meet-ups.

Despite the meetings you’ll set, don’t overschedule yourself. You’ll ideally want to leave at least a day to walk the trade show floor. After all, this is an exciting industry with new developments happening constantly. Give yourself some time to “take it all in!”

Don’t stop your schedule at the closing of the trade show, though. Instead, schedule time after the trade show for networking with vendors and fellow attendees, either for dinner or drinks. You’ll also want to make sure to leave yourself time to sit down at the end of each day, so that you can review in your mind the products and vendors you have encountered, compare sales for possible orders, and decide on any purchases you would like to make during the show itself.

Prepare a Cheat Sheet

Before you attend the trade show, you need to do some homework. You’ll want to prepare a cheat sheet with all of the facts and figures you’ll need to get the most out of your visit.

Your cheat sheet may include inventory needs, budgetary constraints, and important questions you want to make sure to ask specific vendors. This will save you money in the long run, so that you will be able to take advantage of any discounts or special offers at the show, without having to worry about running over budget.

Dress for Success

The unspoken dress code at most trade shows is business casual, and vendors will take you more seriously if you dress according to their expectations. Yes, cannabis trade shows sometimes attract attendees dressed in all sorts of manners, but you’re not there to have fun; you’re there to do business. You can enjoy yourself, but you need to project a professional image to be taken seriously.

Pack more clothing than you think you’ll need so that you won’t have to worry about looking your best. Even more important, however, is your choice of footwear. You’ll want to bring two pairs of comfortable shoes, since walking the trade room floor can be exhausting. In addition, pack a comfortable lightweight bag to hold the materials you will accumulate during the show.

Use Your Time Wisely

Each day of the cannabis trade show, arrive as early as possible to maximize your time. Visit booths strategically, avoiding them at their busiest times, but making sure to reach them before the end of the day or the last day of the show; otherwise, some vendors will leave before you have a chance to meet with them.

When you do approach a booth, use your time there efficiently by asking pointed questions that the exhibitors seem equipped to answer. Even a great prospective company may have less-than-great booth staff. If those staffing the booth don’t seem ready to answer your questions, ask for the contact information of someone who can, so that you can follow up after the show.

Keeping track of orders placed, contact information, and other important details is crucial. To keep this information organized, you can jot it down in a notebook, write information on the back of the business cards you collect, or even enter it into an iPad. Some of the better shows offer badge scanners so you can capture contact information easily.

Network, Network, Network

Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to people at the trade show, even those who you didn’t plan on meeting. Hand over your own business card and be social. At the same time, don’t linger too long in a conversation with a vendor or attendee, unless you see yourself potentially doing business with them in the future. Similarly, feel free to pass by booths that don’t interest you; exhibitors will not be offended, as they would rather spend their time working with potential customers.

Evaluate Your Goals

About a week after the trade show, send an email to any new contacts that you made. Consider sending out LinkedIn invitations and continuing to include them in your network when possible.

After the show, you should evaluate whether you plan to attend again in the future. Decide whether you have met the goals that you set for yourself and your business. Did the trade show garner enough business to be worth the investment of time and money?

At the same time, keep in mind that much of the benefit of trade shows will not be apparent right away. Potential partners may need to see you multiple times to trust you enough to do business. Planning adequately, networking appropriately, and wisely allocating your time can go a long way towards ensuring that you can walk away from a trade show secure in all that you have gained for your company’s benefit.