Enjoying what you’re reading? Sign up now.


A Dealer’s Checklist for a Great Trade Show Experience

A desk with a keyboard, pens and pencils, a plant, and a paper that reads 'To do list'
Article Highlights:

  • Preparation pays off.
  • Ask yourself what you’d like to achieve during your time at the show.

It’s that time of year again! With the 2023 NADA show fast approaching, the automotive industry’s best and brightest will soon be making their way over to Dallas to take part in the biggest automotive event of the year.

Trade shows can get a little overwhelming, but we’re here to help with that. Follow this quick checklist to get the most out of the experience.

Preparation Pays Off

It’s hard to have a good time when you discover that you forgot your business cards at home, or that you’ll have to wear the same pair of socks all week.

It’s important to have all of the essentials, both when it comes to business items and personal effects. We can’t give you a comprehensive list of everything you’ll need, but here’s a few items to get you started:

  • Extra business cards
  • A refillable water bottle
  • A phone charger
  • Plenty of pens/pencils (if you bring only one, it will inevitably break)
  • Plenty of snacks
  • Comfy shoes (there will be LOTS of walking)

Hot tip: Be sure to leave a little extra room in your travel bag; it’s inevitable you’ll get some cool giveaways at your favorite booths.

Set Those Goals

Preparation is equally important when it comes to how you spend your time. You’ve only got a few days to accomplish all of the things you’d like, so it’s important to have a game plan.

Ask yourself what you’d like to achieve during your time at the show—odds are there will be multiple things on this list, and that’s okay. Go through your list by order of importance, ensuring that you’re not scrambling to accomplish the most important goals last minute.

With this, be sure to schedule meetings ahead of time with those vendors you know you want to talk to. This can save you time when trying to finding the right people, plus it can help you build a cohesive (and manageable) calendar space.

Hot tip: NADA has schedule planners that enable you to request meetings with sought out exhibitors. Consider scheduling all your desired appointments on the same day. That way you can use the rest of the show watching speakers or covering the expo floor for some window shopping and floor demos.

Find Your People

Trade shows have a unique sense of community about them—after all, they provide you with the opportunity to reconnect with industry partners you haven’t seen in years. Be sure to leave some time in your schedule to catch up with the friends you have across the industry.

The same can be said for any new connections you discover throughout the week— expand your network with other industry professionals. Don’t be afraid to take some time to introduce yourself to new people, especially ones that offer a refreshing perspective on the topics in which you’re interested. (Remember those extra business cards that we brought? This is where they come in handy.)

Expand into New Territory

With a wide variety of auto-related vendors and industry partners in attendance, expos are also a great place to see what’s happening outside of your immediate dealership bubble. Here’s a few different ways you can branch out:

  • Talk to a vendor whose product or service you’ve always been curious about. Find out how it works and determine if it’s something that you’d like to have a more developed conversation about at a later date.
  • Listen to the movers and the shakers of the industry. Attend any sessions and workshops regarding the topics that you’re interested in and see what you can take away from industry experts.
  • Consider things outside of the event space as well. If you’re in an area that is unfamiliar to you, grab a dinner or a coffee at a local venue. (Bonus points if you can do this while catching up with friends from the expo—and since you’ll be in Dallas, double bonus points if you do it in cowboy boots.)

Hot tip: If you’re on the fence about a new exhibitor or industry relationship, consider meeting them outside the confines of the show floor. Morning coffee, happy hours, or dinners are often times better ways to get to know the reps with which you’re considering doing business. Prompt your prospective partners for an outside-the-show meeting by letting them know when you’re available to meet before or after NADA hours. If they’re serious about partnering, they’ll love that suggestion (trust us!).

Embrace an Idea

Time well-spent at any trade show means nothing if you aren’t able to take at least one idea and incorporate it into your dealership to improve operations. You don’t have to make any drastic changes—even an idea as small as adjusting how you greet your return customers can make a big difference.

Attending a trade show can be an extremely rewarding experience. You get to interact with industry professionals from all over the country, sharing ideas and learning the ways in which you can improve your dealership overall. While these days are busy, they don’t have to be stressful. Following these steps to help make your experience well worth the travel.

Share this Article

Mollie Swygart is a marketing communications professional at Reynolds and Reynolds. She is an expert on Reynolds’ suite of cutting-edge marketing products, their functionalities, and how they can be utilized to improve dealership success. Mollie received her Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art and English from Marietta College. She also obtained an Associate’s Degree in Marketing from Rhodes State College.

Related Articles:

Woman holding mobile phone

Texting Tips: 5 Steps to Better Messaging

Fine tune your texting skills to send an impactful message every time.

Maximizing Your Marketing Potential with QR Codes

Nearly 89 million US smartphone users scanned a QR code with their mobile devices in 2022 – a number predicted to reach more than 100

ipad with Google displayed on screen

Build a (Google) Profile You Can Be Proud Of

Your customer is searching for a trustworthy mechanic. If your dealership doesn’t appear, how could they possibly choose you? That’s where your Google Business Profile

Robotic hand reaching out to touch human hand.

From Bots to Buyers: How AI is Changing Dealerships

Learn how to navigate the exciting landscape of Artificial Intelligence, and how it can help your dealership thrive in this new age of technology.