How to Make the Most of Your Trade Show Experience

By Sarah Guertin, Director of Marketing, Whelen Engineering

This article was first published in the April 2024 edition of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment.

Trade shows offer a unique opportunity for fire and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel to enjoy an immersive experience that contributes to training and development while also providing a firsthand perspective on the tools and technologies that teams rely on to perform with excellence.

But with tens of thousands of attendees, hundreds of exhibitors, and dozens of educational sessions, it can sometimes be difficult to prioritize trade show experiences and maximize time spent on the trade show floor to receive the greatest benefit.

As FDIC International 2024 approaches, it’s important to thoughtfully consider the needs of your department and develop a strategy that will enable you to connect with the peers, vendors, and educators that will have the greatest impact on your operations back home.

Trade show attendees enjoy a live product demo at FDIC International 2023.

Large events like FDIC require months of advanced planning to prepare for a seamless trade show experience from start to finish. Schedules, floorplans, vendor lists, and more are available in advance to help attendees customize their experience and make the most of their time.

Before you attend FDIC:

Meet with your team to set priorities and strategize.
Research vendors who will be in attendance.
Schedule training sessions.
Create a list of questions for manufacturers.

Trade shows provide a platform for manufacturers to showcase products, demonstrate their capabilities, and collaborate directly with customers to provide solutions for their specific needs. Take advantage of the opportunity to have your questions answered by the companies that provide the tools, technology, and resources needed on the job.

Paul Deming, national sales manager at Whelen Engineering, emphasizes the importance of learning about products directly from their manufacturers, saying, “Trade shows are a perfect opportunity to understand the intricacies of a product directly from their creators. You get insights that go beyond brochures and Web sites while getting a firsthand look at the passion and innovation driving the products you use every day.”

But, trade shows provide valuable experiences for more than just the attendees. “Trade shows are so exciting for us as manufacturers,” says Deming. “It’s an opportunity to share our common passion for the fire and EMS industry. We look forward to seeing our customers face to face, shaking hands, and collaborating with them to provide ideas and solutions for their fire trucks and ambulances.”

The relationships you establish with manufacturers extend far beyond the trade show floor. Deming says, “We are committed to serving America’s heroes. The best parts of our experience with customers come after the show has ended and we get to continue those conversations we started on the trade show floor, helping them procure and maintain their units and providing them with access to our extensive sales and service team for support, follow-up calls, and on-site demonstrations. It’s a journey, and we’re proud to work with our customers every step of the way.”

In addition to connecting with product manufacturers, hands-on-training sessions and workshops are particularly advantageous when trying to make the most of your trade show experience. These sessions provide expert instruction from key industry players and cover the latest technology and techniques in the fire service. When it comes to the key workshops, trainings, and demos you can attend at FDIC, Deming encourages active participation, saying, “Attend the demos, interact with the equipment, visualize how it will fit into your operations.” Deming believes the payoff for fully participating in these sessions will come in your enhanced ability to make more informed decisions that benefit you and your agency as well as help you and your team operate effectively.

“We love demonstrating our products and sharing in the excitement they garner,” Deming continues. “A lot of hard work goes into everything we create at Whelen. And because we take full ownership of every step of the process from concept and design to production, shipping, and service, we are exceptionally well-equipped to train our customers on how to use our products to enhance the efficiency and safety of their critical missions.”

One of the most exciting opportunities at FDIC and other trade shows comes in the form of unveiling new tools and technologies that could enhance your fire and rescue operations. Staying ahead with the latest equipment is crucial for safety in emergency response, as it could potentially shave seconds off your response time, provide safer transport to the scene, or illuminate more of the scene, making it easier to do your job and save lives.

With 25 years of experience in the industry, Whelen Product Manager Jon Sestrom can speak on the impact of innovative technology in the fire and EMS industry and says, “Being an early adopter of cutting-edge technology can give your department an advantage in efficiency and overall safety.” Sestrom continues, “At Whelen, we pride ourselves in identifying and understanding the unique challenges first responders deal with while performing their jobs.” He emphasizes the importance of taking feedback from first responders in the field and translating that into innovative solutions that will protect them while they protect and serve others, a core tenet of the Whelen mission statement.

FDIC International 2024 will prove to be an exciting event for the Whelen team and for trade show attendees alike as Sestrom shares exciting news, “We’re looking forward to unveiling an all-new product at FDIC 2024 that is certain to raise industry standards by providing the most innovative solutions for the critical issues we know every department faces in the field.”

When planning your FDIC experience, set aside time to preview the latest offerings from Whelen and other industry leaders that are certain to provide exciting opportunities to enhance your agency’s operations.

With careful planning and strategic foresight, you can maximize your time on the trade show floor by taking advantage of the opportunity to gain experience with cutting edge tools and technologies while engaging directly with the minds behind them. The insights shared by Deming and Sestrom underscore the profound impact of these interactions, emphasizing not just the benefits of the products themselves but the enduring relationships and collaborative spirit that define the fire and EMS community. As you anticipate the valuable interactions, education, and unveilings that await you at FDIC International 2024, approach the event with purpose, positioned to embrace the future of your field and supported by the industry leaders who are committed to giving you their best so you can give yours to the community you serve.