First you have to ask yourself why you are attending a boat show (or any show for that matter). Are you attending as new buyer looking for a new boat? On the other hand, are you attending as an owner looking to upgrade what you already have or just add on to your equipment? Maybe you are a manufacturer or dealer…. that is a completely different reason.
I am always looking for a location that I like to visit. I like the local shows but that is not the same as taking a trip to a distant location and using it like a working vacation. (Just don’t tell my wife how much fun these shows are!)
Probably best to decide why you are at the show and establish an agenda for the time you will be attending. Reviewing or looking at a boat can take a significant amount of time. Plan your time accordingly. In most cases you will want to look over the boat, listen to the sales pitch and, if possible, try it out on the water.
Because it will be a time consuming experience, do a little research ahead of time. Review models and manufacturers that you have an interest in, on the manufacturers website or at a local dealer. Go to the website for the show or event you will be attending and get a copy of the exhibitors list. Review the exhibitor list and rank the manufacturers or dealers by your interest. It sounds like a lot of work but if you prioritize the models you want to see, you can spend less time wandering the exhibit hall and more time shopping. You will also find that you will probably have more time to leisurely enjoy the show once you have achieved your “requirements”.
If you are looking at products or upgrades to your existing boat, it is a variation of the same agenda. Look through the exhibitor lists and develop a plan and route through the exhibit hall. It is also important to keep track of other things that might be of interested as you are looking at the exhibitor list or walking around. You can always come back to a booth or visit the company’s website later (or back in your hotel room!).
If you are attending a show that is or has an in-water portion, check the weather reports. I hate attending a show with the intent of getting an in-water demo and have the weather be cool, windy or raining. Although, if you want to check the rough water capabilities of a few of the boats look for a day that can provide you with the right experience.
It is also important to go to shows that have what you want. Why waste precious shopping time at a Strictly Sail Show if you are looking for a new powerboat? Save the other areas for that extra time, after you have completed your visits to the required list of vendors.
If you are interested in education (seminars, forums, certification classes) make sure that you get the newest schedule of events right when you get to the show. I have attended a number of shows that have had last minute changes due to weather, speaker schedules and room availability. Last minute adjustments are not unusual.
One thing to remember about boat shows, you only have a limited amount of time to attend the show. You might not be able to see everything in detail, even if you go every day the event is open. However, if you follow a schedule to see the things you want, you should have extra time to see the rest of the show. Once you have covered your list you can wander through the rest of the exhibits. Prioritize, write up an agenda, follow it and enjoy the show. Hope to see you there!