This time next week the doors will open at the NEC in Birmingham for the 2019 FIT Show. It will be the single biggest gathering of companies and industry visitors in one room over the three days. There will be plenty to see in terms of products and people and will be your best chance to catch up with friends and meet potential new contacts.

I have been to every single FIT Show so far, and watched it grow out of Telford and in to it’s bigger home at the NEC in Birmingham. During my visits I have picked up enough pointers to help make those three days pass as smoothly as possible for anyone wanting to visit.

So if you’re going to FIT Show 2019, bit it for one day or all three, these are my tips to surviving it and making the most of it.

Make a list

What I mean by this is create a list of stands, seminars or products that you want to see first. When you get in the doors Tuesday morning and are given your lanyards and programmes, go and see the things you actually want to see first. At the end of the day, you’ve probably already been invited down to the show by your suppliers anyway, so go and see them and others first.

That way, you get your main business of the day done, which leaves you to wander the halls and have a look at other things that might catch your eye at your own pace. Remember you’ll have reps from other stands trying to steal your attention and engage you on their stands. If you’re inclined to give them your time then make sure you have seen what you came to see first.

If you’re only going for the day then this is vitally important. The days go far quicker than you think and it will be the end of the day before you know it. If you’re going for a couple of days or all three, you’ll have more flexibility so there will be less of a need to rush around the halls.

Use your map

When you get there you’ll get your official programmes and a map of the halls and the locations of your stands. The NEC is a big place as are the halls within them. I usually just try and wing it and figure out where everything is over the three days. Don’t do what I do, use your map. You’ll get to the places you want to be far quicker that way and have more time for casual browsing or even a bit of bar time.

Late night Tuesday

On the first night of the show the halls will be open until 8pm where exhibiting companies will be inviting you to stay and have a few drinks into the evening. Not sure about it being called late night. A late night to me is anything past midnight! Still, this is important to know. If you’re going to have a few drinks on some stands that day, make sure you’re not driving home, or you have public transport back to where you want to be, or you’re booked into a local hotel you can stagger back to.

I don’t mind the drinking on the first day, but last time round I’m pretty sure there were some people intending to drive home when they really shouldn’t have been. Just something to consider if you’re going to stay later on Tuesday.

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Avoid a hangover

This one goes for multi-day visitors and exhibitors alike! There’s a fair bit of booze drunk on those first two days. There’s the late night Tuesday, then the Gala Dinner Wednesday evening, and more often than note plenty of other companies make their own plans for both Tuesday and Wednesday evening with their own guests.

If you’re going to be a visitor the day after, or you’re on your stand the morning after, avoid a major hangover. I appreciate that when the beer and wine is flowing and you’re already half a dozen pints deep that the “off” switch gets ignored, I rarely listen to my own advice! But trust me, it’s hot in there, and you do far more walking than you appreciate. If you have meetings planned the day after, or you have to be on stand for seven hours the day after, that is going to be a very long day, trust me.

Keep a pint of water and paracetamol by the ed before your head hits the pillow at least!

Stay comfy

Speaking of walking, wear something comfortable, especially if you’re visiting for a couple of days. You’ll put the miles in more than you know, so it’s important that you stay as comfortable as possible. Trust me, Tuesday morning will not be a good time to break in your new shoes!

The same goes for those exhibiting. Many will adorn new uniforms for the three days, and the concern will be with the footwear. Hopefully those in charge of deciding what to wear have been kind enough to choose footwear designed to take the strain and won’t hammer the feet too much!

Choose your food wisely

There’s a pretty wide range of food choices at the NEC. Some however are better than others. Most tastes and dietary requirements are catered for. But I remember last time there being some big gaps in the quality of food depending on where you choose to eat. My advice would be to be as healthy as you can.

Also, drink plenty. That doesn’t necessarily have to be beer! It will get hot in there, and you’ll be active. The more hydrated you can be the less crappy you’ll feel by the end of the day.

Visit with an aim

If you’re going to visit for a couple of days, make it worth your while. Our industry is facing a lot of issues right now, so to take a few days out of your busy schedule has to be worth it. So, make sure you get around the halls and see as much as you can. Aim to come back from the show with something that will benefit you and your business.

That could be a new product to sell to home owners. Advice given from a seminar. New business relationships formed after meeting new contacts. Remember these things are only worth visiting if you can make them work to your own advantage. If not then it just becomes a three day vacation in Birmingham!

Myself for example, I will try to come away with a couple of new products we can sell to home owners at our family run installations business. I’ll also aim to sign up a couple of new advertisers on DGB, and get something for the NFAs at the same time. I’ll be there with various hats on.

If I can listen to my own advice I’ll be doing as much of the above as I can to make sure I make the most of my visit to FIT Show 2019. It’s the biggest three days our industry has, so it’s important we all make the most of it, for the benefit to ourselves and the industry as a whole.

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