How To Run Smart For Max Show ROI

Posted on February 19, 2016 by Anne Daniells - Also by this author

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Put your best business card forward, and make sure you bring plenty of them to the Show.
Put your best business card forward, and make sure you bring plenty of them to the Show.
The International Limousine, Charter and Tour Show in Las Vegas has become an annual industry ritual for more than three decades. For small- and medium-fleet operators, who make up the vast bulk of the chauffeured transportation industry, the trade show keeps them up to speed on critical industry know-how and buying opportunities.

As a former medium fleet operator, I’ve been through all the challenges of figuring out how to maximize the return on a trade show investment. Here’s a guide to making the most out of networking time, affiliate appointments happening, and planning your time at the three-day event, Feb. 29-March 2.

If you’re the little guy, I know it can be intimidating. But this industry is a small world with exceptional operators who love to talk about how they make things work. Your job as an attendee is to ask questions.

When I first attended this Show, I was a bit petrified. To our benefit, we were introduced to people who influenced us greatly, including the late industry consultant Tom Mazza, who made every newcomer feel like an old friend. The LCT Show is still a place that welcomes new attendees with gusto. Your job is to get people talking about what you want to hear.

What happens in Las Vegas is all worthwhile. The International LCT Show offers the ideal trifecta of education, networking and show-floor business solutions. This combination will improve your business if you know what you want to achieve before you go.

But how can you make the show work for you when you’ve never been, or not been often? Smaller and growing operators can barely get away. Every penny counts and the return on the show must be real, right? Well, yes and no. You can return home with measurable results if you plan your time, certainly. But it is an investment in the future strength of your company that really pays out.

How To Do It Right
First, know your hand and your limits. You have three days to find solutions and ideas that you need, so assess your business, and focus on a performance indicator in each functional (or dysfunctional) area of your operation. Choose something you need to improve operationally — maybe hiring or billing. Plus focus on finding an affiliate in your top travel cities. And perhaps fine-tune your client satisfaction rates. Or consider expanding your fleet. Know the top areas to focus on that matter to you, and you’ll be rewarded at the Show.

Show offerings are extensive, but try to limit yourself to the things that meet your goals. So as you plan your time, target those things that matter to you and keep them at the forefront of your schedule and planning. As an operator, we always tried to tackle several potential areas simultaneously to grow quickly. We took a team from the office to each Show. As the female figurehead, it’s easier to be recognized, but the Show was always a greater success with a key operations person and an affiliate manager to ask the tough questions. The team approach really worked. Even one other person to divide and conquer is valuable, so consider taking a second set of eyes and ears with you — someone with a different skill than yours.

The hoppin' happy hour scene on the show floor of the 2015 LCT-NLA Show East, Nov. 8-10. 
The hoppin' happy hour scene on the show floor of the 2015 LCT-NLA Show East, Nov. 8-10. 
Place Your Bets
Now, pull out your show guide and get to work marking it up!

Key advice: Arrive at the beginning. The first day and evening have high energy and fresh conversation. It’s easier at the start of the Show to say hello to a stranger, shake a hand and offer a card. Be ready to ask other operators how they handle business challenges. For example, you don’t have to explain your high loss runs; just ask them how they keep worker’s comp costs down. Ask for solutions at every session and opportunity.

Of course, go to meetings that apply to you, but also use your downtime wisely. If you want affiliates, these hours are important for making connections. Before you leave for Vegas, plan a simple dinner or quick meeting with a key person, company or organization. And have your questions ready! People love to talk about themselves and their successes. You’ve identified your specific areas of need, so leave every conversation with more knowledge of things to apply back home. Ask the same question of a few people, and you’ve created a personal brain trust of successful operators to guide you.

Finish each day with more networking. Every. Single. Day. From benefit dinners to cocktail events sponsored by the exhibitors, the end-of-day chatter puts together faces and names of key industry personnel. Most affiliate relationships develop after official Show hours, so you must show up! This is the time to have your affiliate manager very visible. Those first nights often become the talk of the Show and cement relationships. Be a part of those shared stories.

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