Stop Doing That…Do This Instead: Tips for a Better Trade Show


PRI attendees are encouraged to develop a plan before arriving on the Show floor. “People who haven’t been to the Show don’t realize just how big it is,” said one longtime exhibitor. “They should utilize the Show Planner in the PRI app and check out the maps of the Show before they go.”

Follow these simple action steps to transform your visit to the PRI Trade Show into a successful business venture.

With the PRI Trade Show right around the corner, now is the time to finalize plans for an effective and productive Show experience. To help attendees and exhibitors maximize their impact at the Show, we spoke with several seasoned exhibitors and attendees about the mistakes that are often made before, during, and after the Show, and their advice on how to remedy those situations. 

Before-the-Show Mistake: Lack of Planning

The most important thing attendees can do beforehand is build a plan for the Show. 

“People who haven’t been to the Show don’t realize just how big it is,” said John Catapang of Darton Sleeves, Carlsbad, California. “They should utilize the Show Planner in the PRI app and check out the maps of the Show before they go.”

Compared to the simpler layout when the Show was in Orlando, “at Indy you have the front hall, the back hall, people in the side rooms,” noted John Verburg of Ferrea Racing Components, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “So for an engine builder or a racer, if there are certain people they know they want to see, they should download the floor plan and mark where those people are. Not everybody stays in the same place each year.”

And be efficient, he added. “If you’re there for two days, cover one room one day, the other room the next. You’ll walk yourself to death going back and forth between rooms and waste a ton of time.”

At-the-Show Mistake: Not Spending Enough Time

“There is a lot to see,” noted Catapang, “so give yourself enough time to ask questions to learn about what you are interested in.”

Mike Leary of Leary Racing Products in Denver, Colorado, agreed. “Spend as much time at the Show as you can,” he advised. “If you can handle all three days, do all three days, or it can be hard to see and talk to everyone you want to see. I have a retail store, and I’m direct with 130-some companies. If I spent 10 or 15 minutes with each one, I wouldn’t have a lot of time left over.”

At-the-Show Mistake: Lack of Preparation

Because time at the Show is so short, doing some prep prior to walking into an exhibitor’s booth can expedite the process for both sides.

“If you’re coming to our booth to talk to me, know who we are and what we do,” advised Chris Raschke of ARP, Ventura, California. “If you have a question about a fastener, it’s important to have your dimensions and all the information about what you’re looking for. Don’t just say ‘I need a bolt for an engine.’ While we know about a lot of different applications, we don’t know every single one of them. We need your information.” 

“Know your technical expertise on the product you’re trying to investigate,” said Verburg. “Lay that out in the beginning so the conversation doesn’t go sideways. Racers will come up without their engine builder and ask fairly technical questions that could be above their head. We try to explain, but sometimes they don’t really get it. We don’t have a problem talking to racers and trying to educate them, but really understand that if you don’t know a whole lot about engines, trying to get into detail about why you should run this valve over that valve is probably not the right conversation to be having at the Show. That’s a conversation to have with your engine builder.”

At-the-Show Mistake: Insufficient Booth Staff

Exhibitors, too, can affect results by how they prepare for the Show, said Vic Hill of Vic Hill Race Engines in Mosheim, Tennessee. “If you’re visiting a big company or a very successful company, it can take too long to have a conversation. I’ll walk by a booth and realize I’d have to stand there for an hour and a half before I got to talk to whoever I need to talk to.” Hill would like to see more people staffing the booths “and more people who understand the product they’re selling. A lot of times when we go in a booth and ask a question, there’s just one specific guy who can answer that question, and the line to see him is too long. If I had a booth for my engine program, I’d have four people who could answer any question that I could answer. It’s about understanding the product they’re selling.” 

At-the-Show Mistake: Inappropriate Sponsorship Pitches

Exhibitors realize the PRI Show is an opportunity for racers to meet with sponsors and potential sponsors. 

“If they want to say, ‘Hi,’ that’s fine, but if they’re pitching their newest deal, it’s not the place,” said Raschke. “At the Show I’m inundated with different things. I’ll take business cards, but I ask racers to mail us their proposals.” 

“From the racer side of it, I understand. They thrive on sponsorships,” Verburg said. “We have a bunch of guys we do sponsor, and some of them we met at PRI. But the way it’s done professionally is a five-minute conversation about what you’re doing, if that, and a proposal, which needs to be very specific.” 

After-the-Show Mistake: Late or No Follow-up

“Exhibitors see easily 1,000 people during a Show,” Catapang said. “It’s hard to come back and remember who we talked to, especially since the Show goes right into a holiday. Follow up with the exhibitors you are interested in. It helps us remember who we spoke to.”

“Timely follow-up is important,” Verburg added, “particularly this year, going into PRI with raw material shortages, manufacturing shut-downs and slow-downs, and everything else that’s plaguing us. If we talk at the Show about getting a custom set of titanium valves, calling a week and a half before your first race is not the time to get custom parts. Don’t wait until the last minute.” 

Verburg had one last tip about post-Show follow-up: “Most manufacturers in this industry don’t close for the whole week between Christmas and New Year’s. Those that do a lot of OE business do, because the factories are all shut down, but most of the manufacturers are not closed that week. If you call, and someone answers, go from there.”



Darton Sleeves

Ferrea Racing Components

Leary Racing Products

Vic Hill Race Engines

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