It’s Trade Show Season! Make the Most of Your Trip

For most dirt track and asphalt racers, the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show next week will be one of the biggest business events of the off-season. And if you’re a racing promoter, you might already be in Reno for the RPM Promoter’s Workshops – another great industry event.

I’ll be attending PRI next week in a few capacities – as a buyer and as a rep for a few of my industry clients. My newest client will also be there, debuting a major initiative that’ll benefit the entire industry. I’m excited to be able to share that news soon!

I’ll also be meeting with a few new potential clients to see if we’re a good fit and what that relationship might look like going forward. This year’s show will be different from those in the past, when I’ve had a looser strategy.

And that’s what I want to touch on today – setting a game plan and making it happen.

Whether you’re headed to a trade show, networking event or team holiday party, it’s important to make the most of your opportunities. I wrote an article last year on five ways to get the most out of your trip or event, and it’s definitely worth reading again.

It touches on:

  • Saving your sanity by avoiding shiny object syndrome.
  • Taking notes using my (simple) system – so you’ll be able to actually use them later.
  • Skipping (most) presentations. You can’t replicate the opportunity to meet new people and strengthen existing relationships in person.
  • Making a plan and sticking to it, while still allowing for spur-of-the-moment opportunities.
  • Preparing information about yourself, and identifying who will be open to receiving it.
  • And listening. It’s so important to connect with people on a genuine level instead of just spitting your elevator speech at them.

All of these points are really important for making the most of an event, but one thing I suggest you start on now is planning your show. Here’s how:

  1. I don’t recommend putting together a tight calendar, but I do want you to make a list of the people or companies you’d like to connect with (circle their booths on your PRI map or jot them in the margins if they’re not exhibitors). This is a great tool for keeping you on track overall but not locking you into any intricate schedule.
  2. Identify two or three goals for the show. Do you want to learn more about engine tuning or identify the best material for your rear ends? Are you looking to connect with track owners to promote your show or sanctioning body? Do you want to set the stage for potential sponsors? You should have a few, very specific things you want to learn about over those two to three days and focus solely on them.

If you’re a racer or sanctioning body, you might think that ‘asking people for sponsorship’ is the only goal that belongs on that list. But you’d be dead wrong. Most real deals aren’t made on a trade show floor. Connections are.

Spend your time creating connections with the people you’ve identified above. Show them who you are as a racer, promoter, team or company in person – for many of us that’s a rare opportunity. Tell a little bit of your story and be genuine.

Hard selling doesn’t have a place here anymore, in my opinion. It turns people off, in the worst way. You certainly don’t want your potential sponsor or customer to cringe when they see your number pop up in the future.

When that phone rings, you want them to answer that call with a smile. And that’s starts with how you present you.



P.S. I’ll be in town Wednesday through Saturday. Leave a comment below, hit me up on Twitter at @kswartzlander or shoot me an email at if you want to setup a meeting or just say hello. I’d love to see you there!

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About the author

Kristin Swartzlander Kristin Swartzlander is passionate about applying business sense to racing 'nonsense' in hopes of growing the sport of dirt track racing. She is a business strategist who works with entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them learn how to use public relations, marketing and social media to achieve their goals. Learn more about social media, marketing and racing sponsorship on the DirtyMouth blog.