Whether you love meeting new people or feel intimidated by the idea of making small talk, the key to a successful trade show is doing your research and being prepared. Here are five tips that will help you maximize your time.
1. Prioritize your shows in order of importance
When planning out your trade shows for the year, figure out which ones you are willing to invest a portion of your marketing budget in, and which ones that you are ok with just “walking the floor”. Many shows will allow you to order a floor pass, which is free of cost because you aren’t technically exhibiting. This is a good opportunity to network with potential clients and partners.
2. Map it out
Trade shows get exhausting fast. If you aren’t investing that much in a show and are just planning to walk the floor, make sure you research the floorplan ahead of time. You’ll want to know how to navigate to the most important prospects. This will save you energy and help you narrow your focus, which will make for a better use of your time.
3. Be intentional about networking
In order to be an effective networker, you need to strike a good balance between genuine interest in someone, and knowing how to “get to the point” of your purpose for speaking with them. Remember that it’s about building relationships, so never begin the conversation with a hard sell. Listen intently, take mental notes, and when you are finished speaking with someone, jot down the main points of your conversation or any points that will be important when reaching out to them later on.
If casual conversation is not one of your natural talents, write out a list of unique yet non-intrusive questions that you can take with you to the show. Look at them during breaks to refresh your memory and encourage creativity.
4. Look for pre-show networking opportunities
Pre-show is the perfect time to talk to folks, because they will be more enthusiastic. If you wait until the end of the night or the end of the trade show week, people are more likely to be tired and ready to leave. They won’t be listening as well, and they especially won’t be in the mood to be given an elevator pitch. With that in mind, it might be a good idea to reserve a special assortment of handouts for folks that are walking through in the last portion of the show. Position them as a facetious “pat on the back” for making it through the day!
5. Make your booth "POP"
If you are reserving a spot for a physical trade show booth, try to make it stand out. Use color, unique freebies, music -- anything that will get people to give your booth a second look. And once they do, don’t immediately reach out to communicate. Look friendly and approachable, but let people walk by without feeling obligated to stop and talk. If they want to, they will. And when they do, remember the most important points of your pitch.
You will want to “mentally qualify” your prospects while talking with them. What action do you want them to take and what information do you want to receive from them -- email, phone number, business card? Steer the conversation so that people will share the appropriate information.
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