You’ve made the decision to attend PROCESS EXPO, September 15-18, McCormick Place, Chicago. With more than 1,000 booths to visit, 30+ hours of free educational sessions, and a variety of networking events, advance preparation is crucial to getting the most out of your PROCESS EXPO experience.

Here are 10 Tips to help you prepare for next month’s show and for future trade shows you attend.

1. Pre-Register:  You and your colleagues can avoid lines and confusion by pre-registering for the show online. Your attendee badge allows you access to the exhibitions in the East and North Halls, all PROCESS EXPO U sessions, and International Dairy Show and InterBev Process events. Save money and time by registering today.

2. Book in the Block: If you have not reserved your lodging, NOW is the time to reserve your hotel room(s) and take advantage of affordable options. Complimentary shuttle bus service is available between official PROCESS EXPO hotels and McCormick Place. Reserve your room.

3. Identify Your Show Goals: What are you trying to accomplish at the show? Are you planning to meet with existing suppliers? Do you need to find new services? Do you have a list of your company’s purchasing needs? Define all of your objectives before you arrive so that you can stay on target.

4. Create a personal online planner:  Your Show Planner account will keep a list of the exhibitors and educational sessions that you will be attending. Use your planner to schedule appointments, search for products, create a personalized/printable floor plan, and more! When you’re ready to go, print your Planner and bring it with you to PROCESS EXPO. Your personal online planner will also sync with the Show Mobile app!

5. Research the exhibitors and review the floor plans: Search through the current exhibitor list by name, category or keyword. Once you’ve made a list of booths you want to visit (and added the list to your personal online planner), see which hall they’re located in so that you can design the most efficient plan for your days at McCormick Place.

6. Schedule Appointments: Set-up meetings with exhibitors before you get to Chicago. If you create a personal online planner, you have the ability to e-mail PROCESS EXPO exhibitors directly to request a meeting time/date in their booth. Schedule dinners and drinks after the show to network with attendees, partners, or vendors. Looking for places to dine in Chicago? Check out the Good Eats in Chicago Board on Pinterest. And make sure you schedule extra time between appointments in case your meetings run a little longer than expected.

7. Review the Educational Sessions: Experts from 15 top universities will be covering all topics in the food & beverage industry and there will be a number of sessions exclusively for Spanish speakers. All PROCESS EXPO U sessions are FREE with your registration. You may participate in as many sessions as you’d like.  Add the educational sessions to your personal online planner.

8. Join the (Social Media) Conversation: Follow @PROCESSEXPO on social media platforms. #PROCESSEXPO is the official hashtag for the show. Use the hashtag to learn about exhibitor demonstrations, show specials, upcoming activities, announcements, and more. Have a show question? Ask us @PROCESSEXPO!

9. Packing: Pack business cards – you’ll be networking with show attendees, exhibitors, and business partners. Pack professional, comfortable attire. With more than 300,000 square feet of exhibition space spanning two halls, you’ll be on your feet for several hours. Make sure you have enough space in your luggage for trade show collateral and items that you’ll be collecting on the expo floor.

10. Follow-Up: You don’t have to wait until the show is over to follow-up with your appointments. Schedule a little time each night while your memory is still fresh and go through your notes. Follow-up with exhibitors while you’re still in Chicago. And when you return to the office, be sure to keep in touch with your new contacts by e-mail and telephone. Connect with them on LinkedIn and join the PROCESS EXPO LinkedIn Group.

What other tips would you add? How are you preparing for your visit to PROCESS EXPO? We’re looking forward to providing another solid show for the industry. See you in Chicago!