It’s been a long and trying season. Harvest is just wrapped up – though some growers still have harvest to complete in spring in some parts. Fall field work may or may not have been completed. It just seems like it was a tough and unrelenting year, and now, the eastern Prairies seem to be locked into winter for the duration.

Is it worthwhile to add a tradeshow into your planning this winter? Even if you go every year, is it time for a break? Well, maybe. However, the tradeshow circuit is a really great opportunity to meet all those companies and reps you deal with in your business and talk about what’s new for 2017. It’s a great opportunity to meet with your neighbours and peers and hear from the various groups you might support with checkoff dollars.

Tradeshows are very expensive to participate in as an exhibitor, which means you are going to get a great overview of their business and what they can do for you. They want you to come by their booths, and they want you to engage their people in debate and discussion. As well as getting the latest information and seeing the newest technologies and innovations, you are also quite likely to catch some great show offers which could be the best deal you’ll see all year. Don’t be shy to ask.

Tradeshows on the 2017 winter circuit

Crop Production Show, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Crop Production Show kicks off the year, January 9-12, 2017 at Prairieland Park. It’s regarded as the premier grain industry tradeshow in Western Canada. It might even be more important for a lot of growers this year in Alberta who missed AgriTrade at Red Deer in November. Harvest dragged on in Alberta into November, and AgriTrade was very quiet as a result. Crop Production Show charges for admission and, as a result, the exhibitors feel it brings a more targeted audience. It had record attendance in 2016, demonstrating its popularity with growers. Not billing itself as all things to all growers, this tradeshow will provide the latest on technology, services, and products for all aspects of grain production.

CropSphere 2017, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

CropSphere runs in conjunction with Crop Production Show January 10-11, 2017. CropSphere is more of a conference with focus in the areas of research and agronomy as well as market outlooks for each crop. It is hosted by a number of commodity organizations including Sask Barley, SaskCanola, SaskFlax, SaskOats, Sask Wheat, and Sasktachewan Pulse Growers.

Manitoba AgDays, Brandon, Manitoba

Manitoba AgDays is an exposition of agricultural production expertise, technology and equipment that sprawls over a number of buildings at the Brandon Keystone Centre, January 17-19, 2017. Just as with many other ag tradeshows, AgDays features speakers in two theatres discussing the markets, agronomy and current policy issues. AgDays has free admission and sees in the neighbourhood of 20 – 25,000 people through its doors over the three days.

CropConnect Conference 2017, Winnipeg, Manitoba

More of a crop conference with a small tradeshow portion, CropConnect is in its fourth year, growing every year since its inception in 2014. Put on by a coalition of commodity groups, CropConnect is February 15-16, 2017 at the Victoria Inn and Conference Centre. Much like CropSphere, CropConnect is hosted by a number of Manitoba commodity groups including Manitoba Canola Growers Association, Manitoba Corn Growers Association, Manitoba Flax Growers Association, Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers, Manitoba Oat Growers Associations, Manitoba Seed Growers Association, the National Sunflower Association of Canada, and Manitoba Wheat & Barley Growers Association.

Getting the most from a tradeshow

It’s easy to become overwhelmed at a tradeshow, and then, exhausted. It’s a lot of walking and talking, not to mention eating and drinking, in a warm environment under artificial lights. How do you ensure you get the most out of this experience?

  1. Have a strategy in place.

The exhibitors have a defined strategy for every tradeshow they attend. You should too. What information are you looking for? Are you in the market for equipment? Seed? Do you need information on marketing? Scan the program ahead of time and mark the exhibitors you want to visit. Are there “must see” booths? Can you make appointments ahead of time? Did you get any mail inviting you to events? Or giving you prizes or special offers?

  1. When you get to the show make sure you have an up-to-date show map. Double check your plans against that latest exhibitor listing.
  2. Collect only that information that is useful.
  3. Make sure exhibitors know you are on a mission and get down to business. If the booth is not staffed with the knowledge or experience you need, leave a business card with contact information and ask to be contacted after the show. This is pure gold for the exhibitor to have this follow-up opportunity after the show when they can take more time with you and your business.
  4. Allow time and opportunity for networking with peers and industry. This is a great time to chat with your commodity group representatives as well as do business.
  5. Finally, at the tradeshow, if you take advantage of any invitations for afterhours events or hospitality suites, make sure you have a plan to get home or back to your hotel room safely.
  6. Once you are back in your office, organize the materials you’ve gathered and follow up with any contacts you made that need further work.

By making an investment of time attending a tradeshow, you can gather a lot of information, find out about the latest innovations in your industry and meet contacts that could help move your business to the next level.