I'll start with a list of things you should do before attending, then break it down.
1) Purchase your tickets early.
2) Research exhibitors.
3) Make a list of products you need to stock up on.
4) SET A BUDGET AND STICK TO IT! But if you don't want to stick with it, splurge at the Frends Beauty booth, k?
5) Attend the classes and seminars.
6) Network. Network. Network network network.
7) Don't be rude, don't be pushy, and treat people kindly.
The biggest mistake I see attendees making is going in blindly. They do no up front research, and they end up having an unfulfilling experience. The first thing you need to be sure you do, is get your tickets far in advance. Contrary to popular belief, every show does have a maximum attendee limit. Some shows, actually lots of them, completely sell out before the show even takes place, and offer NO at the door sales. So don't walk up on Saturday afternoon without a ticket and expect to get in. I've gotten numerous texts and phone calls saying "Matt I'm at the front entrance and I don't have a ticket, can you get me in?" Unfortunately the answer is no, I can't. You should anticipate this in advance and get your ticket(s) online as soon as you determine that you will attend.
When you buy the ticket, click on the Exhibitors link. Every trade show website will have one. Find out who is going to be there, and visit our websites in advance to see if we have what you are looking for. If you have a specific list of products you will need (and you should have that list), contact us beforehand by email or phone and ask us if we plan to bring any of those products to the show. Keep in mind, while we may carry upwards of 40,000 products in the store, we only bring 10 - 20 different ones to the show. From time to time, if an attendee contacts us with enough advance notice, we will bring a bag full of products that you request specifically for you. We'll handle the transaction before the show and all you need to do is show up with your ID and you're good to go!
Having your shopping list done ahead of time will help make sure you get exactly what you are looking for. As much as exhibitors love when you come and just buy everything, do yourself and your bank account a favor and make sure you get stuff that you need, and will use. This takes me right to my next point - your budget. I don't know what your finances look like but if you are like most Americans...they could be better. So while you may have the urge to splurge, by setting a budget, bringing CASH, and leaving your credit card in your car...you're probably doing yourself a favor.
That said as I mentioned earlier, if none of that matters to you and you want to go HAM...then I cordially invite you to come do it at the Frends Beauty booth.
Now this next point is really important if you are or want to be a professional makeup artist. Attend. The. Classes. And. Seminars. I know that it is fun to stand in line for five hours to get your picture taken next to the currently popular Instagram makeup artist...but if you want a career in professional makeup, you need to be paying more attention to those whose career you want to emulate. Fortunately, a whole lot of them attend these shows and speak at them, giving away lots and lots of information that will help you build a career that takes you places.
Don't take this as bashing Instagram artists. I know it is a touchy subject so I will make it clear that I am personal friends with, and work a lot with a great many of them. In fact, I've sat down and discussed ways of including these artists in the major trade shows since there always seems to be some drama with the show promoters when they show up. I think what they do is awesome, and I think that they most certainly have a place in the future of the makeup industry. You just need to be clear on what you want out of your career. If you want to work in film or television for example, standing in line to see BeautyJuicyBootyMakeupXXX (if this is a real person, sorry) for five hours all while Joel Harlow is in the Frends Beauty booth makes absolutely no sense. Ya dig?
One of the clear positives of taking these classes and seminars is the amazing networking opportunity it presents you. I can tell you right now...even the world's biggest true professional makeup artists are totally willing to chat with you about your career. I've known many of them who have hired artists they have met at a trade show on projects. Talk about getting a foot in the door. Aside from a direct personal reference, there really is no better way. Big name artists are always looking for new talent to work with. This industry really is a collaborative environment, if you allow it to be.
My final point is very important. Be cool. Just be cool. Don't be rude, pushy, bitchy...just don't do it. I promise you that you will catch more flies with honey. I cannot tell you how many times I've experienced show attendees who are simply the rudest people on earth. And for no good reason! Keep in mind, you are surrounded by people who you may be hired by, or work with at some point in your career. You are surrounded by very influential people, make sure to leave a good impression on them. Be kind, be tactful, be helpful, and smile.
Most important, just have fun. Enjoy the surroundings, enjoy the experience, and be happy!