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IBS 2014: To Walk the Floor, or Work the Booth? That is the question ... but what's the answer?

Ed Hudson, MBA
January 23, 2014

Walk It or Work It: The Eternal Trade Show Question

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? 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 Floor

Walking the exhibition floor at IBS for me is like being a kid in a candy shop … mostly in a positive way. 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 17 years I've attended the Show, I've brought back fresh ideas and new insight gained by walking the floor. (Anybody else out there remember the Shows in Houston?) 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.

Working the Booth

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 corporate staff to "learn the ropes” of the business, right? Very true. 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. I’m sure others are doing the same.

Walk, Work, or Maybe Both?

So 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 keep a finger on its pulse? Then the booth experience is a great way to go.

As for me, I’ll be doing a little of both. 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 while I'm in my "walking it" mode. Or you can stop by and see me in the Professional Builder Show Village expo, where I’ll be in my "working it" mode at a booth we'll be sharing with Professional Builder staff (exciting new partnership we'll be unveiling at the show — be sure to check it out).

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!

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Allen Iverson
Saturday, January 25, 2014 12:43 PM
"I have worked countless home / builders shows for 20 plus years and I have never tired of these events.... I always enjoy working the booth, dealing with some silly questions and helping resolve serious problems... Walking the isles is always fun to see what is new and cutting edge in the biz..."