Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Sports Illustrated photographer Robert Beck gives a presentation at the Nikon booth.

Last week I attended Photoplus Expo at the Javits Convention Center in New York City and thought I would share a few tips on getting the most out of your trade show experience.

First, many conferences, such as Photoshop World or Photoplus offer free access to the expo or trade show portion, so even if you are not attending the conference sessions themselves, you can still get access to camera manufacturers and vendors.

And it's not just hardware and software. Many booths have speakers throughout the day offering presentations on how they use the latest gear or software.

So how do I approach these opportunities? Below are five tips on attending a trade show.

1. Take the time to make a plan and do your best to stick to it. I normally find out which photographers will be presenting at booths and make a schedule of who I want to listen to, either for inspiration, or because they will be demoing software or hardware I'm interested in. With that speaker schedule set, I can move on to the next step.

2. I look over the list of exhibitors and put a check next to those manufacturers or vendors I want to engage with. Looking at the floor plan, I then decide where I will start, normally on the outside edge and then move up and down the aisles stopping at the vendors I've marked while making a note of additional booths that I might return to. Unless you are at a show the size of NAB in Las Vegas, you can normally make several passes around the entire show floor.

3. Do a little homework before you go. While you may see something that is completely new, most of the time, you'll have an idea about what will be on display and have read the press release and followed user reviews. The purpose of visiting a booth then is to get your hands on a piece of equipment as well as the direct access to those that should be able to answer your questions. However, sometimes the first person you meet at a vendors booth is not a subject matter expert and may not know more than you can read online. Be nice, but if you really want an answer, ask if there is someone else present that you might be able to speak with. And if that person is swamped, see if you can make an appointment to return.

A chance to check out video capabilities and get my hands on a D4 and a D800.
4. Don't avoid exhibitors of products that are competitors of what you are currently using. Normally on the second trip around the show floor, I will make a point of visiting other camera manufacturers just to see what they offer. Knowledge adds credibility when talking with clients or answering a question from another photographer. Even though I had a Nikon over my shoulder and a Think Tank bag around my waist, I still checked out Canon, Panasonic, Lowe Pro and Kata, for example. And I do own some of those products as well. Also, if you are completely satisfied with a piece of equipment, let those at the booth know. This is your chance to offer positive feedback or make suggestions.

5. Finally, make sure to take care of yourself. Your comfort will go a long way in making this a positive experience. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Eat and drink throughout the day. Get off your feet (booth presentations are a great time to do this but get there early). Bring a camera so that you can capture products or ideas that you want to investigate further.

If you leave the show frustrated and tired, then you haven't done it right. You may be tired, but you should also be energized and ready to get out and take photos. I came away inspired after listening to Robert Beck and Corey Rich at the Nikon booth. I received a $500 off coupon from DriveSavers and a small GorillaPod from SquareSpace, both services I'm planning on using now.

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