About 10 years ago, a trade show changed my life and brought me rewarding results.   I continue to present new products at trade shows to make new contacts and introduce my new products to industry leaders and decision makers. I encourage inventors to participate in trade shows and have provided a few helpful tips on how to use trade shows to meet your inventor goals.

Think about what an industry trade show is… a place where manufacturers have a chance to show off their latest line of products, as well as introduce new products to buyers they have relationships with and some they may be meeting or presenting to for the first time.  Buyers from all types of distribution walk the floor from booth to booth or have scheduled meetings looking for products to fill their boutique or mass retail store shelves, online stores or print catalogs, shopping channels, etc.

This is where our opportunity as inventors comes in. Manufacturers often look to independent inventors to find their next great product, and might enter into a licensing agreement with you if you have that product. So what is a licensing deal?  Typically, they would look to rent the rights to your intellectual property and handle the manufacturing, whether they have their own manufacturing facility or they outsource it. They are also responsible for the distribution with their internal sales team or they may hire sales reps that represent several product lines. Depending on the language in your licensing agreement, when they receive purchase orders from vendors you earn royalties from your invention! For some, these royalties can be another stream of income and others may hit a home run and live off of their royalties.

There are also some inventors that prefer to go deeper into entrepreneurship and start their own business by manufacturing and distributing their invention, that has now turned into a product ready to fill orders. You have this great idea and what better way to show off your great new product than with the players in that industry. Go to the stores, check online, offline, catalogs, etc. and think about where your idea would be sold. Find similar related items to yours and start flipping over the packages and jot down the companies you think could be a match. Do your research on them. Then find the industry trade show website and see if the companies you noted are exhibiting. Many of the trade show registrations have guest passes or inventor access for free and some may require a fee. You can be a visitor or potentially an exhibitor at some of the top industry trade shows. The UIA website will continue to keep you updated on future inventor friendly trade shows.

Cathie Kirik, our Trade Show Director, mentioned, “participating in a trade show is an opportunity for new inventors to test the waters, it can be very beneficial to practice pitching your product and even more important to listen to the feedback, good or bad. Whether you plan on starting your own business or licensing your product you have to be able to sell your product and that is one of the benefits of Trade Shows. The United Inventors Association has enhanced that by working with the trade shows and securing an area specifically set up for new inventors, it’s our Inventors Spotlight. You will walk away with experience, feedback and possibly a connection that could take you to the next level.” If you do plan on exhibiting in the inventor’s area, Deb Hess, UIA’s Operations Director mentions that the fees at each show vary and so does the traffic and attendees.”

Here are some tips to prepare:

  • Have some level of patent protection

  • Have a working prototype

  • A brief to pique their interest – a pitch or elevator speech about your invention

  • Short video of your invention in action if necessary

  • Your top benefits of product features

  • Look your best

  • Know your expectations of royalty rates for the specific industry

  • Be ready to do a deal!

See you at the Show,

Brian Fried

Executive Director

United Inventors Association