DALLAS — Trade shows in the drycleaning industry can help take your business to the next level. Here’s how:

Way back last summer I attended the Fabricare Show in Long Beach, Calif., which was a terrific event full of good conversations and learning opportunities.

As I walked the floor of that convention center, I couldn’t help but think back to my first Clean Show and what a whirlwind that was. For a business owner, the sheer number of machines and displays on the floor at Clean can be overwhelming. Business owners can come away feeling as though they’ve seen everything and nothing, all at the same time.

Since this is a Clean Show year, it’s never too early to be thinking ahead.

With that in mind, I thought it would be helpful to discuss the three keys to getting the most out of our industry shows, and especially the Clean Show coming to New Orleans in June. Here are the first two keys:

MAKE A PLAN

There are so many activities and displays going on at a fabricare show that you can spend days there and never see everything there is to see, so it’s absolutely critical that before you go you make a plan to make the best use of your time.

One of the best ways to plan for a show is to start with the major questions that you want answered.

Those may include the following: What can I do to reduce my supply costs? What type of pants machine should I get to replace my current one? What is the best way to improve my online presence?

Before the Long Beach show last year, I had a bunch of questions for my software vendor and got all of them answered in one hour-long meeting.

Listing the major questions that, if answered, will improve your business, will give you a road map for how to spend your time at the show.

For example, if you are looking for a new shirt machine you can look up what shirt machine manufacturers will be at the show and where they will be located. You can also look to see if there are any productivity consultants who may have insight into what shirt machines work best for certain businesses.

I guarantee you that if you are looking for a shirt machine and visit those booths you will come away with substantially more knowledge than you went in with. You may come away with a discount as well, as many manufacturers offer significant “show” discounts.

ATTEND EDUCATIONAL SESSIONS

While the idea of sitting in windowless conference rooms all day learning about some arcane topic isn’t most people’s idea of a good time on the weekend, I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from the educational sessions held at fabricare shows.

Whether it is software updates, business valuation, or social media strategy topics, there is a great deal of knowledge on how to improve your business at these shows.

Some of the most rewarding educational sessions that I’ve attended have been on topics that I thought were ancillary to my business, but ended up giving me new ideas and fresh perspectives that we leverage to this day.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.