The National Farm Machinery Show is Feb. 11-14, 2015, in Louisville, Ky. This huge indoor show can wear you out unless you do a little thinking about what you want to get from your time there.
Here are 25 tips form veteran show-goers who have attended this and other large farm shows, such as the Farm Progress Show, for more than 30 years.
1. Visit the web. Going to shows before you could learn everything you know for a Website was like farming with horses. Visit: www.farmmachineryshow.org.
2. Download the National Farm Machinery show App, if you have a fancy phone. If you don't, type "National Farm Machinery Show" into a Web search engine and it the main site is the first to pop up.
3. Time your arrival to avoid the 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. rush hour around Louisville. Also allow time for possible construction delays on your way.
4. Target companies you are sure you want to visit. Identify where they are ahead of time and highlight a few things on the map.
5. Familiarize yourself with the layout. Directories on the Website for the show will tell you where companies are located. Become familiar with the layout of the facility. It's a huge complex.
6. Pick your day to go carefully. Weather may influence it. If it's bad somewhere else in the region and not bad on your route, that means crowd might be light – good for you. Avoid going on Saturday unless you have no choice. It's wall-to-wall people on Saturday.
7. If you go with a group and separate to see things, make sure everyone knows at what time and where you are going to meet up again. Louisville is on Eastern time. Synchronize your watches!
8. Consider cell phone reception. It's better in some locations than others. Age and construction of buildings varies. Have a backup plan to just texting or calling each other on mobile phones to determine when and where to meet to leave.
9. Get business cards, especially from smaller companies that you might not be able to track down easily if you decide you're interested in their product later. Make sure the card has an email and cell phone number so you can get in touch easily after the show.
10. Count on waiting at a busy exhibit if you want to talk to one individual working there.
11. Come ready to buy. Many retailers are doing real business with a farmer or farmers with real money in the back of the exhibit. It takes a while to figure out exactly how you want a sprayer equipped.
12. Avoid impulse buying. Sometimes you may see a handy invention or something you think would be useful, don't think you will be able to buy it when you get home, so you buy it there. Sometimes you use the item. Sometimes it sits in a corner of the shed. Make sure you really want it and need it before you complete the deal.
13. Eat early or late. There is good food there, such as pork products form the Kentucky Pork Producers. But if you insist on eating from noon to 1 p.m. local time, be prepared to stand in line for food, and then fight for a place to sit.
14. Build in a rest stop. Some exhibitors, especially seed corn companies, often have chairs for you to sit and talk a while. If you're a customer they may even offer up a bottle of water or pop. Midday might be a good time to look up your seed company and see if someone from the company you know is working.
15. Don't count on a certain person who works for a company being there on the day you go, unless you plan ahead. Companies with larger staffs, like seed corn companies, often rotate who is there on a day to day basis. The person you want to talk to may not be there the day you go, but may be there another day.
16. Pay attention to some of the smaller exhibits. They may have unique products, maybe something new, that may be as valuable to you as products offered by larger companies in more dressed-up displays.
17. Check out booths you passed by last year. You might see a product which has been around a while but you never paid attention to it before. You may not have been interested in the past, but maybe your operation has changed and now you are. Perhaps you're shifting to no-till. Booths you passed by may now be of interest to you. Check out their offerings, and see if what they are selling would fit a need that you have.
18. Check your options twice. If you're after a particular item, say a sprayer, check out all the options there, even if you think your mind is made up. Ask similar questions at each display and see which one really meets your needs.
19. Determine who you are talking to. Is it a company man that you will never see again if you decide to buy the product later and have a problem? Or is it a local dealer, but from another area?
20. Ask more questions. Sometimes bigger companies staff the booth with district managers or people who don't know the answer to every question. Don't be afraid to ask for someone else if you have a question or concern about the product and the person you're talking to doesn't seem very knowledgeable about what you're asking.
21. Deterimine how new is 'new.' Once in a while you'll see a bright sign claiming a product is new, when in reality it was introduced a couple years ago. Companies use the "new" hook to get you to look. It may still be what you want – just make sure you know what you're getting, and if it is just upgraded form a previous model, or truly a new machine.
22. Beware of regional differences. Does anyone sell xyz product in your area? A good share of the crowd comes from southern Kentucky and points farther south. Exhibitors sometimes play to this audience. Before you buy make sure there is a dealer for the product in your area, and you can get support if you need it.
23. Ask: Is it legal? In rare instances, a product might not even be legal to use in your state. For example, certain types of ammonia application equipment are legal in some states, but not Indiana. The exhibitor may not be trying to fool anyone, but may not make this clear at first. Make sure that you can legally use what you're buying on your farm before you make a deal.
24. Keep track of time. If you have a list of half a dozen companies you want to visit in one day, and get sidetracked, suddenly it may be 3 p.m. and you're only through half the list. Pace yourself, but move fast enough to see what you came to see.
25. Have a bathroom plan. Last but not least, make sure you know where the restrooms are. It may seem like a funny point now, but may seem important if you're there and badly need a restroom. They're clearly marked, but there's not one on every corner. Have it figured out in advance.
This post originally appeared Feb. 7, 2014. It was updated Feb. 3, 2015.