The International Builders’ Show (IBS) is a great place for residential building industry professionals to learn and be inspired — especially those of us who are responsible for marketing and industry research within our companies. Nowhere else can you find such a concentration of people who represent virtually every aspect of the home construction business. It’s absolutely the right place to be if you want to keep current on the industry and to uncover new opportunities for your own business.
A decision I face every year at IBS is how to spend my time that’s not otherwise committed to meetings. Do I walk the exhibition floor or work the booth? I imagine this is the same dilemma many of my clients have. The greatest value I get from IBS is in interacting with other attendees, and both “walking it” and “working it” can be excellent approaches to do this. My total experience at IBS, however, differs vastly on my choice between the two.
Walking the exhibition floor at IBS for me is like being a kid in a candy shop. It puts me in a zone where my curiosity and imagination are piqued. Everywhere there are new products, new technologies, new suppliers — a great environment for solving current business or technology problems or uncovering new product or service opportunities. Without fail, each of the last 20+ years I've attended IBS, I've brought back fresh ideas and new insight gained by walking the floor. The key to maximizing the value of your IBS experience when walking the show floor is starting with an objective and pre-planning your route through and around the exhibits.
People who stop by your booth are pre-qualified to some degree as being interested in what your company may offer. So the booth is a great place for the sales team to get new leads and solidify relationships with current customers. And where better for more junior staff to "learn the ropes” of the business, right? But it’s also a great place for industry veterans to update their understanding of a constantly changing market and industry.
One perceived negative of working the booth is that you have little control over who you talk to. You are typically at the mercy of whoever drops by. But this is actually one of the advantages of being in the booth. Attendees represent a broad cross-section of the marketplace — from those who work on the jobsite, to those in the office, or even a laboratory — so your interactions with visitors are almost guaranteed to represent a broad swath of industry thinking. Treat your booth experience as a personal qualitative research assignment — the insight you gain will make you far more valuable to your company in future business decisions.
When you decide to work your booth, or when you have that decision made for you, be sure to focus on your time with visitors and fight the temptation to congregate with fellow employees. Sure, it’s easier to remain in your comfort zone, but far less beneficial. Too often, I have walked away from an exhibit because I was hesitant to interrupt a conversation between booth workers to get answers to my questions. You can be sure others are doing the same.
So there's the question … do you take total control of your IBS experience and walk the floor, or do you work the booth and make something of whoever comes your way? You can do both, but where you spend the bulk of your time really should depend on your objectives. Looking for new ideas or solutions to business or technology issues? It’s hard to beat walking the floor. Want to be more insightful about the industry, and take a pulse check of what's happing? Then the booth experience is a great way to go.
As for me, I’ll mostly be walking the floor this year and providing consultation to new and existing clients. I'd love to hear about your IBS experience, the new things you're seeing, what's up and coming in the industry, or problems you're looking to solve. Let me know if you'd like me to stop by your booth or meet with you somewhere else while I'm in in Orlando. (Key members of our laboratory & certification services team will also be in Orlando -- let them know if you have product testing, certification, and/or listing needs you'd like to discuss.)
I look forward to seeing you at the Show and hope these few tips will help you maximize the business value of your IBS experience. Let me know how it goes!