Whether you’re a participant or an exhibitor, there are 5 things that really make a great impact on your trade show experience. All of the major players in your industry will be present, so do not miss out on the opportunity to attend these trade shows—even if you don’t plan to exhibit. Here are 5 things you can do to maximize your presence at trade shows and conferences.
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Establish Significant Connections
Establishing connections is a vital part of helping your business thrive. While the power of networking is hardly a new concept in the world of business, trade shows offer different methods of establishing these connections that are somewhat unique to this type of event.
Because your industry’s major players are all usually available in a trade show setting, you hav the ability to connect more easily with executives and decision-makers who would normally be outside of your network—then bring them into your circle.
One method of connecting with other players in your industry would be the relatively traditional meeting arrangement. You can contact an individual ahead of time and schedule a sit-down. However, this isn’t required. You can (and should) walk up to a booth and ask to meet with executives or the CEO.
If no one is available right away, it’s absolutely worth the wait to stay near the booth and gain some additional information until the CEO returns. In fact, this may provide you with a few more interesting talking points. It’s certainly worth the effort to learn when c-level individuals are available. If it sounds like their schedule is tight, find out whether an executive you’re interested in meeting is giving a presentation or participating in a panel, then try connecting with them during that time.
Don’t be shy—this is an excellent opportunity to create face time and real-world connections with leaders who are otherwise outside the scope of your current network.
Check on Your Competition
Trade shows are an excellent way to gain information, and the same is true of your competition. Be sure to attend any events, keynote speeches, panels, and presentations given by your core competitors. Exercising due diligence while studying your competition will help you keep abreast of trends in your industry, as well as properly position yourself against key competitors.
Remember that any information given during these trade show events is not considered confidential, and face-to-face interactions are less guarded and structured than official press releases and published updates. As a result, you are more likely to hear new or detailed information about your peers’ companies that will help you contextualize your business within the greater market landscape.
Visit With Partners and Suppliers
Executives are at these events to gain a sense of their audience, current customers, prospective customers, and even to be on the lookout for beneficial opportunities. It’s essential to revisit your relationship with partners and suppliers to continue building rapport.
Face-to-face meetings with key players within partner and supplier organizations are irreplaceable. Be willing to share your experiences with these executives and CEOs, and try to establish a beneficial working relationship. Exchange cards, and try to set up a meeting for the future to follow up on the discussion you’ve begun at the company booth
Work the Seminars
Being on the trade show floor is important for your individual and company visibility, but seminars and panel discussions provide a different, powerful method for reinforcing your presence at a trade show.
Whenever possible, opt in to host your own seminar. There is no better way to gain visibility than to have your own time to speak about your company’s solution to an audience comprised of your industry peers. This not only generates interest among people physically in attendance, but it also gives you a platform that can help you reach influencers, writers, and media representatives who may be interested in promoting your solution via articles or event summaries that might reach thousands of others.
Even if you aren’t a speaker, attend seminars when you can. This is a great opportunity to show interest, ask questions, gain valuable insights, and create a chance to meet with other executives you’d like to speak with. Remember that the most important part of the seminar is what happens afterward. People like to get feedback on their presentations, so most presenters are willing to spend some time with you to hear what you think. This is your opportunity to create face-to-face contact, generate interest, and even close on a future meeting.
Don’t pack up your bags to leave; instead, stand up, go ask a few pertinent questions, then take some time to establish the idea that you can provide a beneficial professional relationship. Give the presenter your card, then ask for theirs—any opportunity to re-connect is distinctly valuable, so don’t pass up on the chance
Attend After-Hours Events
While it may be tempting to go explore the city or go back to your hotel room, it’s important to resist that urge. Find out where the after-hours events are being held and make sure to attend. This is an opportunity to build connections with others in a more casual environment.
Many people will likely feel out of place at these events, and will gladly engage with you. Remember whose seminars you attended and which executives you spoke with earlier in the day. After-hours events are a chance to solidify those relationships and create the kind of familiarity that increases your likelihood of securing a follow-up meeting.
The most important part of networking at these events is to follow up properly. Whenever you’re able to gain contact information, follow up with new connections quickly—before they go back to their normal routine and potentially forget meeting you. There are so many events, conversations, and exchanges that happen during a small window of time, so remind them. Reach out by stating who you are, where you met, and why it’s a good idea to reconnect in the future. This will help you gain the most out of your initial meeting.
While trade shows offer excellent opportunities to grow your network and market visibility, many miss these opportunities. It can be easy to be swept up in hectic schedules, but do everything in your power to make the time for these 5 steps. If you do, you will increase the value of your trade show experiences by a large margin and set yourself up for accelerated growth.
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Omnitracs. “The ELD Mandate: A Trucking Industry 101.” ELD Facts, Omnitracs, 2017, eldfacts.com/eld-mandate/. Accessed 18 Aug. 2017.