Navigating the Expo Hall as a First-Time Attendee
As one of the preeminent occupational and environmental health safety (OEHS) conferences in North America, AIHce EXP can be overwhelming for first-time attendees. Since AIHce EXP 2022 is the first to occur in person after a two-year break, new and even some returning attendees may find it particularly difficult to navigate. If you’re planning to attend AIHce EXP in person for the first time this year, or want to refresh your expo participation skills and improve your experience, here are tips for navigating the Expo Hall:
- Identify Your Priority Exhibitors. If you haven’t attended AIHce EXP in previous years, using the 2022 Expo Hall map to familiarize yourself with the halls’ layout and searching the online Exhibitor Directory to identify participating organizations may help you prepare. If you’re visiting the Expo Hall with a specific product in mind, the Exhibitor Products List offers a sneak peek at OEHS devices and equipment offered by AIHce exhibitors.
The AIHce EXP mobile app will provide a continuously updated list of exhibitors and conference events, while the AIHce EXP Final Program will highlight those definitively scheduled for the conference. Available starting a few weeks before the conference, these additional resources are critical to planning your Expo Hall Visit.
Consider narrowing down and making a list of exhibitors you want to visit—the Exhibitor Directory’s “advanced search” and “favorite” features may be helpful here. You might also note down booth numbers or mark booth locations on a screenshot or printout of the map. Prioritizing exhibitors that you’re interested in and knowing how to find them will lead to a more productive visit and less time spent haphazardly wandering the Expo Hall. For exhibitors you particularly want to meet up with, you can reach out before the conference to schedule a time that works for both of you.
- Practice Your “Pitch” for Exhibitors. Especially for new attendees, potentially including OEHS students and early career professionals, making professional contacts can be as anxiety-inducing as navigating an unfamiliar event. You can prepare yourself by writing and practicing a “pitch” to deliver to exhibitors, particularly those high on your priority list. Your pitch should take only 30 seconds to one minute to deliver, speaking clearly at a normal speed, but it should serve to introduce yourself to the exhibitor, including your name and brief professional bio, establish your interest in their organization, and, importantly, invite them to continue the conversation.
- Brainstorm Questions. Once you’ve engaged an exhibitor, you will need to keep the conversation going. Likewise, it can be helpful to brainstorm a few insightful questions to ask about the organization and its product and services, aimed particularly at how the organization can help you solve some issue or problem in your OEHS work.
“Exhibitors love to chat—who doesn’t?” says Laura Cilano Garcia, AIHA’s Program Director of Strategic Partnerships. “But in the name being time-effective, you’ll want to get to the heart of what you are interested in quickly so you can capture your information and move on. Don’t forget to let them scan your badge if you’d like to receive more information after the conference,” she added.
After you’ve talked with a particularly interesting exhibitor, also consider leaving a business card bearing your contact information. Taking the exhibitor’s business card is helpful as well; you can write down on it what was discussed and what you need to follow up on.
- Look for Landmarks. If you’ve arrived on-site and, for all your preparations, still find yourself disoriented in the Expo Hall, look for the large, centrally located AIHA booth. Stop by to attend activities and presentations about the latest developments with the Association or to have a professional photo taken at the Headshot Cafe.
Other significant Expo Hall landmarks that can help you get your bearings include the Innovation Station, the New Exhibitor Pavilion, the demonstration and activity areas, and the two food and beverage areas. Work time into your schedule to grab lunch or a drink and to attend activities that will be held at these locations, such as rescue demos by AIHA’s Confined Spaces Committee and the Personal Protective Equipment and Clothing Fashion Show. Mini golf holes are located throughout the Expo Hall for additional fun.
- Use the Pathway Passport Program. If you find yourself with free time and don’t know where to start, the Pathway Passport Program offers you some additional structure and guidance for exploring the Expo Hall. The Pathway Passport Program is a scavenger hunt in which you visit the booths of participating exhibitors. Participating in the program can give you chances to connect with exhibitors that you may not have interacted with previously, and if you complete the scavenger hunt, you will be eligible to win one of five $500 gift cards—winners will be selected on the final day of the Expo.
Finally, don’t plan to cover the entire Expo Hall in one day. About 180 exhibitors are expected to attend this year. If you’re attending with a colleague, you might formulate a divide-and-conquer approach covering booths of mutual interest. Nonetheless, prepare to spend a lot of time on the Expo Hall floor—wear comfortable shoes, bring a bag for informational printouts and promotional items, and stay hydrated.
For more information, visit the Attend the Expo and For First Timers webpages. You may also attend the First Timers’ Webinar, held on May 11 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time or the on-site First Timers’ Orientation Meet and Greet (sponsored by DuPont) held Monday, May 23, at 6:30 a.m. Central time, the first day of the conference.