SHOT Show Success Is all About the Schedule

Decades of attendance at the SHOT Show have taught me a precise schedule is the key to focus, sanity, output and success. With a schedule, I’ll accomplish 90 percent of my goals — no one is perfect. Here’s a scheduling blueprint to keep you on track, save steps, maximize time and enhance productivity.

SHOT Show Success Is all About the Schedule

Glancing at my SHOT Show schedule prompts cold sweats. How am I going to effectively navigate a half marathon in miles of aisles? How do I gestate 1,600 exhibitors?

Decades of attendance have taught me a precise schedule is the key to focus, sanity, output and success. With a schedule, I’ll accomplish 90 percent of my goals — no one is perfect. So, I suck up my panic and continually update and refer to my schedule.

Here’s a scheduling blueprint to keep you on track, save steps, maximize time and enhance productivity.

Start Big

Stop. Before you schedule anything, register for SHOT Show, online, right now. You’ll save time and long-line frustration. Also review the overall show agenda before booking hotel and travel arrangements. Several important events are slated before the show opens. Know what’s happening when. If you haven’t already, book hotel and travel now. Flights and hotels sell out quickly.

Prepare, survive and prosper at SHOT with pre-, at- and post-show schedules. Procrastinating or ignoring scheduling will sink your ship before you even set sail for Vegas.

Schedules easily identify when or who is booking rooms/hotels, setting booth appointments, contacting media, identifying key contacts, setting up the booth or picking up the rental car.

Additionally, looming deadlines and progress on tasks are easily identified with a schedule, while finding staff or companions at the show is a snap.

Focus on Success

Set goals and stay focused. If you’re headed to Vegas for fun, don’t read another word. If growing your business is critical, start setting show goals. Wandering the floor or hoping folks drop by your booth aren’t plans for success, even for first-time buyers or exhibitors.

Outline specific goals. “Look at AR’s” isn’t a goal. It’s too general. A better plan is, “purchase X, Y and Z company’s new AR’s and identify three new AR companies.” Again, “increase booth traffic”— too general. What’s better? “Bring in 10 new buyers and 10 members of the media.”

Define realistic goals. If you’re the SHOT Show Lone Ranger, you can’t make 75 appointments in four days. Prioritize before you schedule. With a written set of realistic goals, start building team and/or individual schedules. 

Study the show exhibitor list and floor plan. Get familiar with the show terrain and a viable path of travel. Whether getting to a manufacturer’s booth to buy products or getting to and from your booth, the lunch area, nearest restroom, media center or events, wandering or getting lost wastes precious time. Devise a method to escape the madness.

Pay attention to space and time. There are only so many hours available, so running from one floor to another and back again is a colossal waste. Maximize space and time by focusing on one area of the show at a time—planning appointments by the floor or perhaps product segment. 

Include meals, debriefing, rescheduling and even restroom breaks into the schedule. Missing appointments happens. Make sure you have some open space in the schedule for reconnecting. If you don’t have lunch blocked out, you will find yourself famished by 4 p.m. with three appointments to go. Review your schedule each morning and debrief each evening. Both are critical.

Schedule now. If you haven’t already, start scheduling today. Waiting means fitting your life into others’ schedules. The early bird does get the proverbial worm.

If you're attending Industry Day at the Range, use the same tips to maximize the time since it will be crowded, noisy and one day. (Photo: Alan Clemons)
If you're attending Industry Day at the Range, use the same tips to maximize the time since it will be crowded, noisy and one day. (Photo: Alan Clemons)

Utilize Technology

Begin with technology, but also go old-school. Utilize online and/or device-based scheduling tools and apps, but back up the schedule on paper too. If your network goes down while you’re planning or at the show, or you lose signal while in the belly of the beast, the printed schedule becomes a life raft.

Select the best scheduling platform. For small businesses or individuals, Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook and Apple Calendar are manageable and easy-to-use tools that are accessible on devices and sharable. However, if you’re tasked with handling schedules for booth staff, buyers, reps and events, consider more powerful tools.

Capterra is one of several online information aggregators that classifies scheduling software options and helps identify suitable scheduling tools for SHOT and beyond. Best appointment scheduling software choices are listed with filter options. For instance, filter on freemium — free programs.

Invert the Scheduling Pyramid

Sketch out a general schedule first. Review the full SHOT Show schedule. The SHOT website offers incredible detail on educational sessions, special events, exhibitors, floor plans and more. Determine what’s critical and what’s not based on your goals. Begin with an overall schedule by day, then begin assigning team members to specific planning tasks, events, floor or booth time and areas of the show. 

Use the myriad tools on the SHOT Show website. Online registration, hotel reservations, show planners and more are at your fingertips and the earlier you start you research the better. Don’t let your crew of two or 20 jump online and just cruise around. Based on established goals, have different team members research and plan various elements of the show.

Drill down. With the general schedule set, drill down and get specific. Decide whether to keep a master schedule, individual schedules or both. A full-team schedule with individual sub schedules (departments/individuals) allows access to the whereabouts or tasks of your full team. But in many cases, individuals making and keep their own schedules is more effective.

Employ Proven Guidelines

Consider trading first-day appointments for last-day meetings. The first day of the show is hectic, at best. The last day may feel dead, but it’s also a great day to enjoy quality time with folks. But beware, last-day visits must be scheduled. Sometimes key players need to leave the show early or have company-wide meetings planned. Inversely, the final day is an awesome day for scouting. Crowds dwindle and the pace slows.

Schedule time to learn. SHOT Show offers awesome educational opportunities available including retailer-specific sessions. You’re already paying for airfare, so you might want to consider getting to Vegas a day early to attend SHOT University or the SHOT Show Exhibitor Academy (held in June). Also take advantage of the retailer sessions during the show. Knowledge is power.

Be social. Some of the best networking opportunities don’t come on the show floor. Sitting at gaming tables, however, is not (really) networking. Attending events, sitting at meal tables with folks you don’t know, connecting at educational sessions—that’s networking. At every opportunity, reach out to folks you don’t know. Trade business cards. Learn about them and their expertise.

Allow customers/others to book with you online. Many online scheduling tools allow people to book appointments with you directly. No phone calls, texting or time wasted. They head to your schedule, see when you’re free and grab an open slot. This is a great feature for customers, the media or others who want to visit your booth and may not need to see a specific person.

Download the SHOT Show Mobile App. Again, don’t wait until the last minute to download the app; become familiar with it ahead of time. It’s another super helpful asset.

Evaluate show-only discounts. These may have a big impact on where you go and when. Or, consider offering discounts to drive booth traffic. Either way, hone in on the schedule. Someone needs to man the booth to make the sales, or someone needs to get to the booth to take advantage of the sale.

Focus on key players but slate time for research. Your key accounts deserve special attention, but don’t miss finding additional companies or products of interest. SHOT offers several avenues to discover products and companies you might not know. Industry Day at the Range, the New Product Center and NEXT pavilion are three terrific opportunities.

Make Lots of Notes

List contact names and phone numbers. Overkill? No. If you’re running late or miss an appointment, contact info facilitates a professional courtesy call or text. Additionally, if you’ve never met the person you’re going to see, being able to remember their name as you hustle up to the booth or meeting area circumvents embarrassment.

Keep schedule notes with requests or promises made, who you met, the make and model of that awesome new product is called and more. Myriad details, if forgotten, make you look unprofessional and hamper productivity. These aren’t scheduling issues until post-show. Keep notes about these points and more, in concert with the schedule, to prevent post-show migraines. Use a notebook, your phone’s notes app or the back page of daily schedule printouts — and back them up. Simply take pics of completed daily schedules and notes and upload them to the Cloud. 

Label your schedule and notes with your name, cell phone number, email address and booth number if you have one. If you misplace them, the text you receive saying, “We’ve got your schedule,” is priceless.

Keep an additional hit list of companies not on your schedule. They’re folks or products you’d like to see if you find yourself with a little extra time. List the companies by booth number so you can quickly identify who’s close.

List unscheduled stops. Business cards are a good way to keep track of unscheduled stops and networking. They’re also easy to misplace in a side pocket, buried in a briefcase or left sitting by the TV in the hotel. Write down the company or person’s name and what occurred during the visit. 

Schedule the Follow-Up

Schedule your schedule. Use your at-show schedule to set your post-show, follow-up schedule. At the end of the show, overwhelming fatigue or sometimes the “show crud”  can result in memory lapses. The schedule and notes bring everything back into focus.

Schedule now for next year. With SHOT Show fresh on your mind, you’ll remember many “I wish” moments easily forgotten in a week or two. Attack scheduling over 350 days, not the last 15.


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