How to Work a Tradeshow


Every industry has its own tradeshows, and the fashion world is no exception. From MAGIC to Curve, tradeshow season is the perfect time to see what's new, interesting, and upcoming. As a blogger, tradeshows let you connect with both stores and brands, helping you develop the kind of relationships that can launch your blog from “one of many” to “one of a kind.” Though this season's tradeshows are over, now's a great time to plan for next season's. But if you've never attended one before, what are some good things to keep in mind? Hopefully, this blog post will help!

Set a goal for attending.

Why are you at this tradeshow? Is it to report on trends? Network with bloggers and brands? Something else entirely? Know what you want the outcome to be before registering and showing up. For me, tradeshows are all about seeing what's fresh and exciting for next season and taking it back to my readers. That goal influences everything I do at the tradeshow…from which brands I talk to to my final post-show writeup. Whatever your goal, make sure it's clear and keep it mind before, during, and after the show.

Get a lay of the land.

When I first arrive at the venue, I like to walk the entire tradeshow floor. You can do a little prepwork for this by looking up attending brands and the booths they'll be stationed at online (if your tradeshow has the information readily available, of course), but even if I've researched ahead, I still like to start things off by walking through the entire event anyway (P.S. Wear comfy shoes!). You'll be able to see where the brands you really want to talk to are located, plus scope out new brands to stop by later. And while we're on the subject of new brands…

Be willing to talk to lesser-known labels.

Most people at tradeshows, both press and buyers, immediately go to the popular, well-known names, and that's understandable…after all, everyone knows them. But there's definitely value in approaching and getting to know those smaller brands. One, you're more likely to have a unique (and therefore more interesting) writeup if you're not talking about the same things everyone else is. Two, you never know who's going to be the next big thing. A 20 minute conversation with an unknown brand now could lead to major collaborative opportunities down the road…not to mention positioning your blog as the place to get that first scoop!

Have plenty of business cards on hand.

Take more business cards than you think you need. You never know who you'll meet (or when you'll meet them) and nothing makes you look more unprepared than running out halfway through a tradeshow. I keep business cards in my purse, my wallet, the large bag I take to the tradeshow, and my camera bag. That may sound like overkill, but trust me…more is definitely better in this case. Also, remember to have a small card file or card case on hand to keep other people's business cards in; there's nothing worse than losing the contact info of the person you really wanted to follow up with.

Keep an ear to the ground for industry networking events.

A lot of the “work” at a tradeshow happens off the actual show floor. Breakfasts, teas, lunches, coffees, meetups, drinks, dinner…a large part of our business happens while socializing, and the fashion business is no different. If you hear about an event, politely ask if you can attend or secure an invite. If there's someone you'd like to talk with in more detail, ask if they're available for you to buy them coffee later. And if you're an introvert (like me!), don't forget to check out these tips on networking for introverts beforehand.

Follow up after the show.

Once the show is over, there's still more work for you to do. Remember to follow up with all brands, bloggers, buyers, and press you met at the show or during any events. People tend to be pretty busy themselves after a tradeshow, so you definitely have a few days leeway, but try to make contact within the first two weeks. Following up while that first impression is still fresh makes all the difference.

Have you attended a tradeshow recently? Do you have any tips for your fellow IFB-ers about how to work one? Please share them in the comments!

[Image credit: Adriano Castelli /]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

4 Responses

  1. Melissa

    As a veteran attendee at MAGIC Market Week, I can verify all of these tips! I come prepared, set specific goals, and take tons of photos. In my experience, smaller indie brands are sometimes easier to work with because they appreciate the exposure from bloggers more. Good follow through and communication skills are also important. You can read some of the helpful tips I published on one of my blogs back in August 2012 here:

  2. My name is Lolo

    Thanks, we are a new brand attending our first Fashion Show in London (Pure London February 2015) and many of tips highlighted here also applied for brands.