No matter what industry your business is in, there is a conference to match. These gatherings are a chance for people all over the country to collaborate on new technology, share trade tips, expand their networks and even visit a new city. Yet for all their benefits, conferences can quickly become a time of stress and missed opportunities if you're not careful.

We at NGS Printing recently returned from the SGIA Expo in New Orleans. In addition to seeing the latest in graphics and displays, we realized there was a lot to be said about making the most of one's time at these conferences. Below are a few expo insights we'd like to share with our customers: 

1. Take time to review the industry

"Conferences are your best opportunity to understand the current state of your industry."

It should go without saying, but conferences are your best opportunity to understand the current state of your industry. Yet, it's surprising how many people attend these events but don't retain any relevant information.

To make the most of your industry expo, spend time walking through the show floor and reviewing the state of the market. Keep your eye out for new products or technology and emerging trends, as these may greatly influence your outlook years to come.

2. Organize meetings with customers and vendors

If your business operates across the nation, you probably don't get to see your clients or suppliers very often. Trade shows are the perfect time to meet in person and put names to faces. If you know a customer of yours will be in attendance, organize a lunch or dinner to talk shop and thank them for their business. 

3. Schedule time for learning

Most expos – if not all of them – have presentations or learning seminars. Take advantage of these: They're a great opportunity to hone your craft, find new ways to please your customers or confirm your current methods are the right ones.

During the SGIA Expo, NGS attended the Brands Talking Sustainability Luncheon hosted by Sustainability Green Partnership (SGP) where representatives from Starbucks, REI and Ann Taylor spoke about their sustainability efforts. During the event, they discussed how finding a sustainable print vendor is important to their corporate environmental initiatives. At NGS Printing, we're committed to sustainability by minimizing our carbon footprint through recycling, waste elimination, promoting green substrates and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It was good to hear that our corporate values and efforts reflect those of our target market.

4. Review the competition

Finally, don't leave an expo without taking a look at your competitors. See what you can about their processes, business strategy and customer base, and then adapt accordingly. If another business has a competitive advantage, see if you can replicate it.

You may also want to participate in trade show competition. Winning puts you in good favor among your customers and prospects, helps your marketing efforts and gives you never-ending bragging rights.

Don't let your next industry trade show pass by without making the most of your time. Review the state of the industry, learn new approaches, schedule time for customers and vendors, and unleash your competitive spirit. In doing so, you're sure to return to work with fresh new ideas and motivation.