Trade shows and conferences represent an opportunity to reconnect with friends and associates in the industry; make new contacts; and be inspired by influential speeches and personalities. But, too often we view attendance as a group effort, or even a chore, sticking with the team we came with or those we know.
Whether it’s a new product show, a blogger conference or a huge happening like SXSW, here are some tips to maximize the networking opportunity so you can get a return on your time investment in the form of insight and contacts.
Have a plan. Study the floor plan in advance and plot your path to make sure you visit the most relevant booths and panels. Most exhibit directories exist online and many have a calendar plugin so you can manage visits with location in mind and avoid walking back and forth all day. Cluster meetings in the same general area for convenience, if possible, and give priority to those exhibitors whose businesses are most likely to advance your own.
Take names. Don’t be shy about asking for cards or using apps like bump.com to download contacts. Use every opportunity to make a connection, whether it’s a journalist or blogger; potential business partner; or even a prospective employee. Limit your visits to 10-minute increments, but don’t leave without making a date to continue the conversation if it’s warranted.
Document and share. Take smartphone shots of unique displays, note the best speeches, and share them on your social media feeds. It’s a great way of connecting with colleagues who might not realize you’re there!
Dress well. The trick to trade shows is to appear professional but be comfortable. A jacket or structured sweater is always good for a professional look, and for day-to-evening temperature changes, but you’ll be thankful that you wore smart flats!
Follow up. A quick note, a phone date, Facebook connection… just be sure to choose one and not all at once. Be diligent to let no one go un-contacted after the event; this is often the time when the “real deals” are sealed.
Got any trade (show) secrets you’d like to share?