Home shows are meant to be fun, inspirational, and instructive, but for the unprepared they can easily turn into a confusing maze of eager sales pitches and unfamiliar jargon. Getting the most out of your home show experience takes a combination of preparation and enthusiasm.

The more you know going into a home show, the more educated you’ll be when you come out. Even if you’re just going for fun and inspiration, a little planning and resource management will make your day run smoother.

Come Prepared

Begin making the most of your home show experience before you even leave the house. Preparation will help you get more answers faster and with less stress. First, decide what your goals are. If you want to ask professionals about a specific project, bring information and notes that would aid you in discussing it. For example, if you are considering a bathroom remodel, bring pictures of the space and applicable measurements, such as room dimensions. If you want to speak to someone about energy efficient upgrades, bring utility bills to help them diagnose what might help you out the most.

Katie Miller of Roomations suggests,

“Do research on costs, materials and installation times prior to the show so you are prepared to ask more in depth questions that generate insightful answers. Take notes on the pamphlets of companies that were of interest to you with product or service, cost and contact information then follow up immediately after the home show.”

To expedite your research, make good use of any vendor maps that are provided for your home show. Plan out a route and stick to it, making note of any interesting booths you want to return to at the end of the day.

Take Notes

If you are well-prepared, you’ll receive a plethora of information during your home show visit, far too much to simply memorize. While many professionals have business cards and other promotional handouts, you’ll want to jot down ideas as you go along. A smartphone or tablet PC is a useful tool for taking pictures of new products, scanning information codes (QR codes) or for entering a professional’s contact information.

Ask Questions

Home shows are not the time to be shy. Ask as many questions as you can to find out what products and services are right for you, especially when dealing with new technology.

Designer Nancy Dalton notes,

“It’s a good idea if you are looking at very new products to ask if they are available immediately. Sometimes, new models are brought to home shows that are not available until the second half of the year.”

If you’re looking to hire a professional for a specific project, talk to as many relevant vendors as possible. While home improvement professionals will rarely give you an estimate off-hand, you can get a sense of their professional character, which is just as important as considering cost differences.

Sam Lazarus from ServiceMagic by Best advises,

“Once you know what kind of professional you need, such as an electrician or landscaper, use the opportunity to see how they present themselves in such environments. Also, look for associations to various professional organizations that one may be a member of.”

For Professionals

On the professional side of the booth, home shows represent big marketing and lead generation opportunities. During peak hours, you might only have a few minutes with a prospective customer. Because these meetings have such a high turnover, it’s important that the employees you choose to run the booth know your business inside and out.

“It is important to have someone that knows and understands your brand to be manning your table as well. The ability to explain each plan, feature, location, etc. that your company provides is essential so that you do not lose consumer interest or create confusion.”,

says Ron Martin of Grand View Builders.

By being knowledgeable, friendly and unique you help distinguish your services from other businesses. Home shows are all about first impressions, whether you’re a homeowner looking for a promising contractor or an electrician hoping to turn a new face into a repeat customer.

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