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0108 PD: Four tips to maximize your time at trade shows

Published on 21 December 2007

World Dairy Expo and World Ag Expo are like the Mall of America for dairy producers and dairy farmers. They are one-stop shops for all the needs of today’s dairy producer. Even smaller, regional trade shows give producers more options than a Super Wal-Mart. In addition to visiting your neighborhood dealer, who may have some of the things you need, make an effort to visit a trade show. These shows feature more products and more experts than you can find locally.

Before you begin visiting trade shows this year, you should know what expo organizers, businesses and producers say about how to make your trade show experience more effective. No matter the size of the show, progressive dairymen get more from trade shows by doing their homework and preparing for the event thoroughly.

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1. What do you need help with?
Father-son dairymen Sabastian and Nelson Faria attend trade shows around the country. The Farias are large-herd dairy producers in the Southwest. Over the years, they have attended trade shows to make their operations more efficient.

“We’ve been continually expanding for the last few years,” said Nelson Faria, a recent graduate of Texas Tech University. “When you’re expanding and building, you are always looking for more efficient ways to do things. It’s not just one area; it’s a variety of areas. It’s a good learning experience.”

If you are expanding, you need to decide what products you need to help you make the transition well and efficiently.

If you find that you need to change your operation in some way, decide what must go and what needs to take its place. If you know at least what needs to change, then you can ask the right questions at an upcoming trade show.

2. What will solve your problems?
“Most of the time I have a specific purpose when I go to trade shows,” says Harry Dewitt, a producer from Friona, Texas. “If I plan to expand and build a new freestall barn, then I look for loops, rubber flooring and bins, that kind of stuff. At a trade show, usually all the vendors are there and you can cover a lot of ground.”

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Determining possible solutions for your dairy’s weaknesses prior to attending a trade show will go a long way to finding the best solution. Narrowing your search criteria will help eliminate unnecessary visits with vendors who don’t have products that address your specific concerns.

If available, download seminar agendas and exhibitor maps. Circle the speakers or vendor booths that you think will help you the most.

Keep an open mind when you go to the expo. Both Dewitt and the Farias will tell you that there is a lot of new technology showcased at trade shows and expos.

“The true value of being at a trade show is having all the wealth of knowledge that you find at an expo,” said Julie Gabris and Susan Orth, show coordinators for Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin. “Where else can you find that many experts in one place, where you can go and find out what’s new and ask your questions?”

Organizers of the World Ag and World Dairy Expos both said they try to balance the opportunities for unbiased education through seminars and exhibitor exposure, so producers can find the best information for their business.

3. Who can help you?
Finding experts can sometimes be difficult, and unless you have a lot of friends in many different fields, getting the advice you need can take some time. Expos allow producers the opportunity to visit with product experts and ask questions about how to get the most out of their product.

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“Along with the new equipment, shows bring together a lot of the people that [producers] wouldn’t get to see everyday,” said Ellen LaRose, communications counselor for Case IH at Morgan & Myers. “With Case IH we have product experts at the displays who know the equipment inside and out. They know how to set up the equipment for optimal productivity. They know how to get the most power with the right fuel efficiency.”

When visiting your predetermined vendors, seek out the experts who have the most experience with your particular concerns. Be prepared to describe your situation clearly. Then ask them their opinion about how to address your concerns.

“It’s more relationship building than anything,” said Linda Mrugacz, marketing project manager for WestfaliaSurge. “There isn’t a lot of hard selling that goes on, unless someone has come with a keen interest in a particular product or building a new parlor.”

There are also organizations made up of producers and industry leaders (i.e., PDPW, US Jersey, and Holsteins Association USA, etc.) who exhibit and gather information about your needs at expos. In addition to finding out what producers what to learn more about, these organizations also have beneficial information that may be helpful.

Make it a point to talk to other producers attending the show. Expos bring together producers, who are usually miles apart, and gives them the opportunity to share ideas and collaborate on what has worked, or what has failed, on their dairies.

4. When should you act?
Let the information and ideas you collect during a trade show settle in your mind. Don’t be bullied into any big decisions until you feel you’ve compared the opinions of all the vendors you previously determined to visit. Remember to shop around. Use all the resources available, including the Internet after a trade show, to decide what option is the best decision for your operation. PD

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