Among the dozens of reasons attending haunt trade shows can be beneficial, networking and staying up-to-date certainly rank near the top. Never underestimate the value of some good old fashion networking; with other haunt owners, demon-possessed murder clowns, or prop builders. Not to mention the power of staying updated on industry trends and new technology – both of which are often unveiled at haunt trade shows.
Of course there’s plenty more than two reasons to attend, some of which we’ll outline below, but we’ve gotta start somewhere. It’s all about building connections and learning about new trends. With a whole lot of fun and (if you’re lucky) maybe even some fake blood and screams sprinkled in, it’s an experience worth investing in.
Just like an axe murderer has to do a little bit of prep work before chopping off heads and limbs, you’ll have a more valuable trade show experience if you come prepared. Most importantly, you’ll want to put together a game plan of what booths and vendors you want to see since there isn’t usually enough time to see everything. That’s where we come in – with a helpful guide to give you the tools to properly prepare for your first haunt trade show.
Why Should You Attend?
- To meet helpful vendors and make connections. The connections you form with other haunt industry professionals could be your most valuable tool as you build your haunted attraction and grow your audience. You never know who you’ll meet at a trade show and what relationships you’ll build while you’re there. Ready to add a new lighting system in your haunted mansion? Call up Todd the lighting expert you met at Transworld and see if you can strike up a deal. Looking for new props? New costumes? Haunt trade shows typically have something for everyone and you’re likely to find at least one thing that could solve a problem.
- To learn something new. You might know everything there is to know about applying the scariest zombie makeup this side of the Mississippi but know very little about set building. Most haunt trade shows offer some sort of learning experience you can take advantage of to expand your knowledge base.
- To stay up-to-date in the industry. It was cool for Sleeping Beauty to miss a whole century of new technology but being behind the trends and running a haunted attraction aren’t very compatible. Don’t pass up this opportunity to learn about new trends in the haunt industry, see new technology in action, or gain first-hand experience with new prop/set building techniques. Haunt trade shows are a great resource for staying up to date on trends and tech and they also offer a hands-on experience which can be incredibly helpful.
- To scope out the competition. Trade shows are like real-life spy missions without any backlash. They allow you to scope out what your competitors are up to and maybe get fresh ideas on how to stand out from the competition.
Plan In Advance
This may sound unnecessarily obvious, but preparation is key when attending a haunt trade show. This doesn’t only relate to coordinating and scheduling lodging and transport, but also preparing your team and putting together materials. The devil is in the details, and this devil isn’t too happy when he’s ignored and left to the last minute.
The first step when preparing to attend a haunt trade show is taking care of your people (and yourself). Booking accommodations and transportation to and from the event isn’t something you want to leave until the last minute, with all the scariest monsters in the area clamoring to show off their scaring abilities, nearby hotels will book up quickly.
Exploring the offerings and putting together an itinerary is also an important part of preparing to attend any trade show. It offers you the opportunity to explore everything about the show you’re attending and plan out how you’d like to spend your time there. Pay close attention to what classes and workshops are being offered to you and book/pay for any that look interesting to ensure you don’t miss out.
Did you know that some trade shows and conferences offer certain ‘tracks’ or paths that help guide you through the decision making process depending on your priorities? These ‘tracks’ can also help you decide which vendors you really want to see and provide you with the opportunity to map out your schedule.
The last important step of preparing is making sure your team is all on the same page. Relay your itinerary and important details about how you’ll get to the trade show and where you’ll stay once you do.
Finding the Right Show
It’s important to define what you’re looking to get out of a trade show when choosing which one to attend. Do you want to focus more on learning new things and taking advantage of classes/workshops? Maybe you’re most interested in finding new spine-chilling props that are sure to elicit screams from your guests.
No matter what goal is driving your attendance, consideration of the cost should be heavily taken into account. There are plenty of options out there, finding one that meets your needs usually isn’t re-animation science.
After you find the right show you have to pick the right people to bring with you (or just bring yourself!). You can bring multiple people in order to achieve different goals and work together as a team. For example, maybe someone on your marketing team comes and spends their time attending seminars and classes and diving deeper into the haunt industry while someone from your construction team visits vendors with you to find a new mask maker.
Shows we recommend (and you may even see us at – if you’re lucky):
- Transworld’s Halloween & Attractions Show
- Midwest Haunters Convention
- Halloween and Party Expo
- Scare LA
- Fear Expo Live
- Texas Haunters Convention
It’s All In the Materials
Don’t forget your business cards! Trade shows are some of the few remaining places where business cards and print materials get to shine. This may be a great opportunity to refresh your business card design or get more of the tried and true printed out.
You will be handing these out to tens (if not hundreds) of vendors, other attendees, and potential guests. Always bring more than you need and don’t be stingy with them – everyone deserves to know more about you and your haunt. You’ll also encounter plenty of fish bowl drawings where you can try your luck at winning a prize.
Moral of the story: print out some business cards and bring a bag to collect all the cards you’ll pick up throughout the day.
Follow Up and Follow Through
This one’s important – do not let those leads sit! Follow up with the peers and vendors you met within a few days of the show to keep their experience fresh in their mind. Share a fun anecdote about meeting them if you have one, and engage with them. This could involve a phone call, email, or text conversation – however you normally operate.
It’s crucial to reach out to everyone the week after the show. Connect with all the vendors and attendees who’s cards you picked up to establish a rapport with them. You may even want to add them on social media to learn more about what they’re offering. Make sure to include any sort of identifying anecdote or personal information that will help them remember you and what you do.
Now is also a good time to check in with any vendors you’ve placed orders with. Just to ensure all the information you gave them was correct and to make any necessary last minute changes. It can also help solidify your working partnership with said vendor and help them put the right face to the name.
Haunt trade shows are great places to connect with the right people, generate new leads, and create awareness for your haunted attraction. Knowing what to do when you get there is often just as important as showing up prepared.
Now that you’re armed with some helpful advice and a starting point, it’s time to put together your game plan and outline your goals for the show!
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