International Pool Spa Patio Expo, one of the industry’s largest events, takes place at the end of every year. For spa retailers, IPSPE offers a slew of networking opportunities and new products from manufacturers based around the world. Yet, when you are thousands of attendees, you need to plan ahead and focus your initiatives to take full advantage of the event.

The following tips are here to help you prepare for your next IPSPE attendance. Trade shows can be overwhelming for inexperienced attendees; between keynote speeches, seminars, and navigating the showroom floor, you’ll discover the days pass by quickly. However, when managed effectively, IPSPE can be an extremely powerful tool in expanding industry relations and boosting sales.


1. Do Your Research

Before you purchase your tickets to Dallas, do some initial research into the event. If this is your first time attending IPSPE, look for information about previous years, including exhibitors, speakers, and seminar topics. Furthermore, keep a running tally of interest conference events that may benefit your business. The more you know ahead of time, the better you can allocate your time and maximize your networking potential.

Information about the 2021 event, including exhibitors and speakers, is typically available within the weeks leading up. Additionally, you can find information on conference tracks, which are curated sessions designed to explore different industry topics in depth.


2. Establish Trade Show Goals

You should know what you want to take away from the expo before you arrive. If you haven’t already, create a list of key issues affecting your business, such as marketing or service needs. Then, write up a second list that includes relevant seminars and talks, as well as the vendors and industry professionals who impress you. In focusing your IPSPE objectives, you can maximize your time and increase networking opportunities.

However, you should always have a backup plan. In the midst of your list-making, create another one consisting of lower-priority vendors should your top choices fall through.


3. Coordinate With Your Sales Staff

It’s a good idea to bring at least one other member of your sales team to the expo. Not only can you cover more ground, meet more people, and attend more seminars, but coordinate your efforts in meeting your trade show goals. While you scout the floor for the latest spa accessories, your colleague can attend the showroom design conference. Furthermore, you can use trade shows as an opportunity to give new salespeople a leg up in the industry. If you have more experience and connections, introduce your junior associate to your contacts.


4. Schedule Meetings in Advance

With so many attendees looking for the same attention from vendors and manufacturers, you should arrange meetings ahead of time. Use your list of top vendors and industry insiders to reach out in advance and set aside time for a meet-up. You increase your chances of making connections at the expo if you’ve already initiated the conversation.

If you are unable to reach certain high-priority vendors beforehand, make a point to introduce yourself at the very beginning of the event. The sooner you begin the connection, the better your odds of landing a sale or establishing a business relationship.


5. Manage Your Time Effectively

With hundreds of exhibitors, days of seminars, and thousands of attendees, IPSPE is overwhelming for those without a game plan. Amidst the commotion, it’s easy to get carried away in conversations or wander aimlessly looking for that one vendor you wanted to speak with. Remember, stick to the established plan and leave enough time for your top priorities.

You should even take some time to review the floor plan and mark down the important stops. You’d be surprised how much time can be wasted scouring the trade show floor looking for specific exhibitors.


6. Attend Seminars and Conferences

The conference portion of the 2021 IPSPE begins on November 13th, three days prior to the expo. Though you likely won’t be able to attend every conference event, you can and should listen to seminars that are of particular interest to your business. Depending on your goals, you can take advantage of different conference tracks, which focus on topics ranging from general business planning to retailer-specific seminars.

Seminars can provide detailed resources on how to overcome industry-specific problems, as well as how to take advantage of fruitful opportunities. As a result, attendance numbers have increased. Speaking with Aqua Magazine about the upward trend, Doug Ducate, president of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, explains, “People are looking to solve technical problems, and they will attend sessions that promise to do that.”

However, it’s important to remember every minute spent in a conference seminar is time you could also be networking. Be sure to plan in advance and avoid overbooking your weekend with conference sessions.


7. Be Engaged and Ask Questions

Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle with writes, “Vendors are no different than retailers themselves, playing favorites to certain customers versus others–whether they will admit it or not–and having consistent, face-to-face opportunities with vendors can strengthen a retailer’s chance of being on that ‘preferred’ list.” Facetime is a valuable asset at IPSPE, and most of your effort should be focused on regular, engaging conversations.

Never shy away from a potential business connection. Even small talk is worth it in the initial contact, opening up the conversation to more meaningful opportunities. You’ll likely be speaking with dozens of vendors and fellow retailers; it’s important to stay engaged, listen, and ask questions. When you ask pointed, thoughtful questions, you not only have an opportunity to learn from a colleague, but the potential to steer the conversation toward your sales initiatives.


8. Network on the Floor and Off

Networking is the essential purpose of attending an industry expo. In fact, some of the most lucrative exchanges are not sales agreements, but exchanges of information. There’s a lot to learn from fellow retailers and vendors, but, ultimately, it’s the circle of business connections that matters most. Instead of short-term gains, networking favors long-term initiatives.

By expanding your network, you gain professional resources that can help your business in the future. For instance, you may want to expand into a neighboring region sometime down the road. If you connect with vendors and fellow retailers from different regions at the conference, you create a web of relationships even in unfamiliar territory.


9. Use Social Media

If you’ve resisted employing social media to your advantage in the past, it’s time to let go of some of your reservations. Social media is here to stay–and it’s a powerful tool at trade shows. At IPSPE. you can use hashtags, photo tags, and tweets to engage with the event, other attendees, and potential connections. This helps take the conversation beyond the showroom floor and into the public sphere. Additionally, utilizing official event hashtags and social media handles, you can increase your online visibility–and perhaps trend.


10. Follow Up With New Connections

Once the conference ends, networking is not over. On the other hand, it’s just beginning. When you return from the expo, reach out to some of your new contacts. It can be a simple note reiterating your conversation. Focus on a few points that stuck with you and perhaps suggest an opportunity to take the discussion further. Periodically check in with your contacts throughout the year–share an interesting article, for instance–to keep channels open. The more you interact with your retail and industry associates, the stronger your relationship becomes.


Applying What You’ve Learned

Ultimately, the connections and industry insight gained from your experience at IPSPE are only as valuable as you make them. Don’t let your time and network connections go to waste. Once you’re back to business as usual, it’s time to take advantage of your new resources. Place an order for the new chemical filters you found; follow up on that sales lead; share insights with your sales staff; try out the improved showroom layout recommended by an industry insider.

Use what you’ve learned to make your business stronger, more efficient, and more profitable. In the end, the point of the expo is to bring retailers and vendors closer together in an effort to expand and strengthen the pool and spa industry. This year, take the steps to ensure a more lucrative and constructive event than ever before.