Take it from a trade show veteran – as a vendor and a visitor – and plan carefully. Find out who I’m planning to see, how I’ll shop and what I’ll do before I ever get on the plane to Las Vegas.
ISSA – the worldwide cleaning industry association has their annual trade show on November 17th to 21st.  The ISSA/INTERCLEAN Trade Show is massive, consisting of a trade show floor with:
– Over 650 exhibitors
– 5 days of educational seminars
– 3 keynote speakers
– 3 co-located events
– Over 16,000 cleaning professionals

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Attending events like ISSA/INTERCLEAN can be a great way to revitalize your business, but it can also be a large investment of both time and money.   Proper planning will help ensure you get the most out of attending the show.

It Starts with ISSA Education

I personally always like to start with the education events on the ISSA Event Schedule. After all, the origin of conventions, no matter the industry, is to teach and learn from each other for the benefit of your business and the industry at large. 

Most of the classes are provided at no extra cost with the exception of a few certification events.  The schedule offers everything from formal training to networking events.  Most of these events are only offered at one time so if there are any sessions that are must see events then you should plan to save the time. 

Specialized Education for Your Industry

In addition to its own education, ISSA has several partner associations that run events at the same time, co-located with the ISSA Show.   

ARCSI – Association of Residential Cleaning Services International
BSCAI – Building Service Contractors Association International 
IEHA – International Executive Housekeepers Association

These events offer specialized training and networking events for residential cleaning professionals, building service contractors, and facility managers and housekeepers.  These three trade associations are independent, and joining their events may have a small additional cost, but being able to network and learn from individuals from the same industry are well worth the additional investment.

Keynotes by Business Moguls
The final part of the educational opportunities are the keynote events where world-class business and motivational speakers not normally available to us offer unique insights that transcend industry divides.

Because these keynote speakers and their messages are exceptional, ISSA and their co-location partners keep the trade show floor closed, and there are no competing events to make sure everyone has the opportunity to attend these events. 

John FoleyJohn Foley became one of the top pilots in the world when he transitioned from a Navy carrier pilot to Lead Solo of the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team. Using Blue Angel methodology as a model, he developed his unique Diamond Performance® Framework for excellence.  Foley has used that unique message to advise Fortune 500 corporations, professional athletic teams, venture capital companies, professional associations, and educational institutions. 

Tony HsiehTony Hseih is the CEO of Zappos.com, where he helped Zappos.com grow from almost no sales to more than $1 billion in gross merchandise sales annually, while simultaneously making Fortune’s annual “Best Companies to Work For” list. Zappos.com was acquired by Amazon in November 2009 in a deal valued at $1.2 billion on the day of closing.  Hsieh will share with ISSA/INTERCLEAN attendees the different ingredients used by Zappos.com to build a long-lasting enduring brand, including the importance of customer service and company culture. He also will talk about how focusing on delivering happiness to customers and employees has enabled the company to expand beyond selling shoes to clothing, bags, and other product categories.

David BlaineDavid Blaine has performed magic privately for U.S. presidents as well as for international dignitaries. He has also performed alongside Michael Jackson and during the Super Bowl halftime show. In 2010, Blaine performed magic for 72 hours straight in Times Square, raising nearly $100,000 for relief efforts following the earthquake in Haiti.  David Blaine will share his stories of passion, determination and what it takes to challenge the realm of what others around you find “impossible.”

Shopping for Your Business
After you’ve selected your education schedule from the available opportunities, it’s time to turn your attention to the ISSA/INTERCLEAN Trade Show – a massive collection of manufacturers, distributors, and various business service providers. These are the companies you pay to help you run your business.To make the trade show work for you, you’ll want to:
– Make a list of all of the companies you pay for services and equipment/products/supplies you purchase
– Take some notes about how each of those services or products is working for you (or against you)
– Prioritize your “shopping education” using the ISSA App to help you map your route
Yes, I said it; to squeeze the absolute most value out of your convention and trade show investment, you will need to do some homework beforehand.

Mapping Your Trade Show Tour – to win prizes!
With your business needs and desires listed and prioritized, you’re ready to use the tools provided free by ISSA to plan your trade show visits. Visiting vendors on the trade show floor is a great way to see the latest in tools, products, and techniques as well as learn more about some new favorites.   With over 650 exhibitors, it can be a daunting task to find what you may need on the show floor.  

Start by studying the list of exhibitors on the ISSA website. You can sort this list by a variety of categories to match what you’re looking for. This will help you decide whom to visit to address your business needs and desires.

Be sure to download or pick up at registration the ISSA/INTERCLEAN show book, which includes a full schedule, exhibitor information, maps, and lots of other useful information. It’s a great reference guide if you won’t be connected by smart phone or tablet while at the show.

But hands down the most efficient way to plan and map your show floor journey is to download the free ISSA smart phone app; just search for “ISSA 2013” from Google Play or the App Store. The app not only puts the exhibitor list and map in the palm of your hand, it also has a Here and Now feature that will give you “travel” suggestions based on your current location on the show floor.  The App also offers a new smart route feature.  Select the exhibitors you most want to see the app will automatically generate the most efficient route to visit all the exhibitors you are interested in as quickly as possible.   

And, yes, you can use the ISSA App to participate in the Scavenger Hunt to win one of three iPad Minis. Visitors will use the App to scan QR codes in the booths of participating exhibitors to be entered. 

ISSA/INTERCLEAN is a great place to spot trends for the coming year or two. To get my brain in gear for figuring this out, I normally try to quickly walk the entire show without stopping at any booths as soon as I get there.  A few years ago the trend was green cleaning.  Then chemical free cleaning was a new trend.  In 2012 the trend was robotics, with several exhibitors offering new automated solutions.  I also look for new ideas and products I may want to visit later on, and I’ll be able to add those to the ISSA App to “re-route” my show floor travel plan on a moment’s notice.  

Time-Saving Tips for Talking with Exhibitors
When you approach an exhibitor, whether it’s someone you planned to visit or a spontaneous detour, don’t make them guess who you are and what you want.   I always start by telling them:
– Who I am
– What I do for a living
– Why I am interested in their product or service  

Often they cannot highlight everything they sell quickly, and there may be an even better solution than the one you are looking at.  Try to avoid jumping straight to the features of what you think is the ideal solution. Let the experts help you investigate the problem with you, and they may be able to offer another even better solution.  

The Sample Secret
If you really want a sample and they are not readily handing them out, the best time to ask is at the very last hour of the show.  It is quite expensive to ship the floor products back home, so often exhibitors will offer you a sample or a deal instead of taking that case home.  Just remember, you have to get it home too, so if you are flying, that bottle of cleaning product will need to be checked in your baggage and may leak on the way home.  

Last, but Possibly the Most Important Tip
Bring a small rolling suitcase-type bag for collecting your goodies. Of course, you can’t buy everything you want right there, and you may not even want to place orders for shipping either. But you’ll grab the brochure, seminar handout, a business card, and order form, a coupon, even a sample or two. All of that collects and gets heavy, so plan ahead!

Derek Christian is the owner of My Maid Service with locations in Cincinnati, OH and Dallas, TX, as well as a business coach through Cleaning Business Builders and publisher of CleaningBusinessToday.com.  Derek is now an investor in several cleaning companies including My Maid Service Dayton and Real World Services Columbus.  Derek is also a consultant for industry leaders Marvelous Maids and Castle Keepers.