Supercharge Your Trade Show Buying Experience Using the DPAN Formula

My ASD Trade Show Update and a New Formula Revealed.

I recently attended the ASD Trade Show in Las Vegas, NV; it’s one of the largest trade shows in the country. Now that I’ve been to one of these monster-sized events, I’ve created the DPAN formula to help us supercharge our trade show buying experience.

Affiliate Disclosure |

Ree Klein | ASD Trade Show |

Before diving into the new formula, let me shed some light on why I think attending trade shows is so important and a bit about my experience at this recent ASD trade show.

Trade shows are about more than buying product

Whether you are just beginning or are seasoned—whether you already have a niche/product in mind or are completely clueless, attending trade shows can help you be a better business person. Here’s why.

  1. Going with an open mind can reveal opportunities and connections you never knew existed.
  2. You have a chance to test your communication and analytical skills in rapid succession. Real time, baby!

With that in mind, here are some highlights from my recent experience.

Highlights from my first trade show experience

This was my first trade show as a private label entrepreneur and man was it a doozie! Kind of like starting a new exercise program and spending an hour in the gym and then running five miles all in the same day. It can be painful!

I prepared before I went and while I’m glad I did, there are some things you just can’t anticipate. Let me explain.

  • The Las Vegas Convention Center is huge. There are several large buildings some multi-level. This trade show consumes every last square inch of space. There is so much to see that it’s overwhelming. And, despite how well organized the event people are, there is no way you can easily find vendors selling specific products using ASD’s online tools.
  • I’m an introvert, but I’m not shy. There’s a difference. If you are very shy it will be hard to work a trade show and gain the information and connections you’ll need to be successful at private labeling.
  • In-person connections with fellow entrepreneurs alone are worth the trip . Diana of attended the show, too. We had emailed back and forth but not met in person. We met for breakfast the first day of the trade show and continued to connect and share information throughout the event. That was one of the highlights for me. (You can read Diana’s ASD update post here.) I met many other online entrepreneurs spontaneously at the show that otherwise I would not have had the chance to meet.
  • The free workshops are actually worth your time. If it weren’t for Diana I may have missed taking advantage of them. Besides meeting other online sellers, I learned some excellent tips, like gather all the brochures and price sheets you can from Robyn Johnson’s presentation, “Show Me the Money: Finding and Analyzing Wholesale Sources for eCommerce.”
  • Jim Cockrum was an amazing speaker, too. I hadn’t heard of him before but went with Diana to his keynote presentation. He has a ton of experience as an Amazon seller, making money online and teaching others to do the same. I was so impressed with him and will consider taking one of his courses. I was lucky enough to get a free copy of his book Silent Sales Machine for arriving early (see, the early bird does get the worm!).
  • The days are long and the nights are longer. Whoa, don’t get too excited. I didn’t hit the strip after leaving the show. Nope, I went back to my hotel and ran the products I found through my evaluation process. It was a great way to further test the methods I’ve described here and here.  The net result is that I eliminated all but three products from my countless hours walking the trade show floors!

Because attending trade shows can feel daunting, I came up with the DPAN formula to help put a framework around the experience. Here’s more about the formula.

Use the DPAN formula to supercharge your trade show buying experience

DPAN stands for:

  • Discover
  • Practice
  • Analyze, and
  • Network.

When it comes to getting the most out of your trade show buying experience, embracing each part of the formula will help you succeed.

This isn’t a linear process, rather it’s a mindset.


This part of the formula has to do with being open minded. Being willing to walk areas of a trade show that you normally wouldn’t step foot into. You could find an opportunity for a new brand or a new line in your existing brand. You might meet someone who will be pivotal in the next major leap your business takes.

The only order I put in while at the show ended up being in a section of the trade show that I would never have thought I’d find something. I liked the product so much I bought some for PrivateLabelPreneur. You’ll see a shop on the menu bar in the next few weeks. I’ll keep the product a surprise for now 🙂

Even small discoveries can be worthwhile. For example, I have no interest in selling beauty products, but if I hadn’t done a spin through that section, I wouldn’t have found the Simp-Q Portable Photo Studio I bought!

I’ve struggled with how to get low-cost professional-looking images. I purchased an inferior photo studio a year ago and returned it to Amazon. It was difficult to set up and the pictures I took were worse that taking them outside. Here is a before and after shot using the new studio. Can you tell which one came from my new purchase?!?

Simp-Q Photo Studio Before & After |

So as you can see, being open to discovery is a good frame-of-mind and an essential part of the DPAN formula.


On the surface this may seem strange. How can practice fit into the formula? Easy. Trade shows are an excellent place to practice:

  • Overcoming shyness
  • Speaking confidently about who you are and what you do
  • Analyzing products while at the show to see if there’s even a chance one might be worth pursuing
  • Meeting strangers
  • Negotiating

I’m sure there’s more, but you get the idea!


You could wait until you get back home to do your analysis. But if you do, you could miss out on something or worse yet, make a purchase that could turn out to be unprofitable. That could happen anyway, but the chances are less likely if you do the detailed research.

Besides that, when you get home you will stick your pile of brochures and price sheets in a drawer or on the credenza and let them become part of the landscape.

Force yourself to do this work while at the show. Here’s why:

  • If you have further questions, you can go back to that vendor and ask more questions.
  • If you determine that a product is one you want to pursue, you can schedule time with the vendor to place the order at the show. This will guarantee you can take advantage of whatever show special they are offering.
  • It will help you practice the craft of product selection.

I wrote two very detailed posts (including free worksheets) that cover how I analyze products. I used this same process and the worksheets at this trade show to cull out the best for consideration. The process works great and I encourage you to give it a try. Here are links to the posts:


Everyone knows that networking is a cornerstone to success whether you work for a company or are out there paving your own way. Trade shows provide and excellent platform for networking.

Make sure you check the trade show site for opportunities to network. These can be in the form of seminars, speaker events, round tables, etc.

Also, make sure your community knows you’ll be there. Ask the bloggers you follow if they’re going. Do they have a Meetup planned? Ask how you can attend.

Make the most of your experience and meet as many people as you can. You never know the potential value of that relationship down the road.

So that’s the DPAN formula in a nutshell. Do you think I’m a nutcase or am I making sense? Let me know what you think either way!

Where you can find trade shows to attend

Here’s a link to a list of the Top 100 USA Shows. You’ll find trade shows for industries in every category, from kids to hunting and outdoors all the way to glass and plumbing fixtures.

In fact, I just got on the pre-registration notification list for the PLMA’s 2016 Private Label Trade Show coming up in Chicago November 2016. Brrrrr! I don’t know whether I’ll be able to attend, but I wanted to get on the list so I don’t miss out if my schedule permits.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

Call to Action

So what do you think about this trade show stuff? Have I convinced you that it’s more valuable than simply shopping for inventory? I sure hope so! I’d love to know if you’re planning to attend a trade show this year, shoot me an email at or leave a comment below.

Now back to work for me!

Ree Short Sig

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  1. Diana Poisson April 6, 2016 at 8:42 AM

    What a great post and I love your DPAN formula. I need to overcome my shyness and do more research before I attend the next show. I think that not being prepared was a partial cause of my nervousness with the vendors.

    I really feel that wholesale is the next step in my business and it’s what I’ll be concentrating on in the next few weeks.

    I hope that we can meetup at another event later this year or next year. We should also do a meetup with a few others as you suggested.


    • Ree Klein April 6, 2016 at 10:55 AM

      Hi Diana! I’ll join you for a meetup any chance we get. You added so much value to my trip and I’d have missed out on some of the speakers had it not been for you. Thank you! I can’t wait to hear more about your wholesale strategy so I’ll keep an eye on your blog for updates.


  2. Mandy Williams April 6, 2016 at 7:54 AM

    I couldn’t agree more I was fortunate that I attended a couple of quite large shows here in the UK before attending the Canton Fair and so I knew that preparation was important, but I agree going with an open mind is important too the Canton Fair is so huge that even though I was there for five days I couldn’t do it all (there is even a golf buggy shuttle service to take you between sections it is so huge). My plan was to go swiftly round the area that had the most relevance to my current products looking for products that caught my eye taking brochures but trying not to get engaged in talking to vendors too much by promising to come back to see them the next day once I had done my research. As you can imagine there are a lot of people at the Canton Fair so I was very impressed that the next day one vendor remembered my name and my business name! The research in the hotel room at the end of the day I agree with Ree is vital and meant I was more focussed the next day on what could work for my business. I then went back to the vendors I was interested in for a detailed chat, prices etc. I didn’t make any orders at the actual fair but the personal contact with vendors is very important they do remember that you made the effort to go to China. The rest of the time at the fair I spent going round other areas that interested me and spotted a couple of future products. I have come home with lots of info and enough product ideas to last a long time.

    • Ree Klein April 6, 2016 at 10:51 AM

      Hi Mandy ~ thank you for sharing your experience. While the ASD trade show is huge, the Canton Fair is mind-blowing from the reports I hear! I think you were smart to go to some local trade shows before tackling the Canton Fair!!!