With the Best Western Supply Expo and national tradeshow just around the corner, it’s time to brainstorm the various ways to approach the event. People often spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to attend a tradeshow, but what’s the point if you aren’t going to make the most of the experience? The purpose of a tradeshow has two parts. As an exhibitor, you want to tell customers about your product or services. As an attendee of the trade show, you are given time to focus on the latest trends, news and updates that allow you to make your business better.

Let’s talk about ways an attendee can use their time wisely.

1. Prepare Your Personal Plan. Trade shows take time away from your normally busy day. Get the most out of the show by carefully planning. Schedule early morning flights and return well after all key events have concluded. Review the event schedule and plan the functions, breakout sessions, educational or certification opportunities and trade show hours on your calendar. The old adage applies – plan your work then work your plan.

2. Set Your Goals in Advance. What are you hoping to gain from this trade show? You should know this before you attend the trade show. For example, if you run a hotel, your goal might be to collect the information about three new ways to save money or run your operation better or adjust your operation to include a hot new trend. Remember to keep your goals in mind as you walk the show floor, focusing on those suppliers and exhibitors who service your primary goals. Keep an open mind though! There may be some fresh ideas you want to consider at a later date.

3. Meet People. Many trade show attendees can be so distracted by elaborate booths and the entertainment feature of the event. Stays focused on your goal and make a point to meet the people who can move your goal forward. Collect business cards; make notes and when you return home, schedule time to keep the momentum going.

4. Negotiate. Negotiate. Negotiate. If you see a product or service that fits your goals, ask question. Learn the costs. Return to the booth to see if the supplier can do any better on the costs or with other features.

Preparing for a trade show doesn’t have to be a stressful process. With these four tips, the right mindset, and proper organization, your time will be well-spent and have the benefit to your business will be long term.

Best Western hoteliers have a chance to get together at their annual trade show in San Antonio, Texas on October 17, 2013 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.