For business operators and vendors, spring typically means one or more conference trade shows for your industry or association. Regardless of which side of the table you are on (attendee or vendor) your participation in an event of this type means significant expenditures for travel, hotel, food, entertainment, and conference fees. If you are a vendor with a booth at the conference trade show you’ll spend more. Much more!
In addition to the monetary expense, you’ll also be out of the office and your regular work routine anywhere from two to six days. This means lost momentum in your regular work, falling behind on e-mail and voicemail, not to mention the business opportunities you may miss as a result of being out of the office and preoccupied for an extended period of time.
Given the tremendous cost in time and treasure to participate in your industry or association conference and trade show, now is the ideal time to develop a personal conference and trade show plan that will help you get the most from your participation while minimizing lost opportunities and the size of the hole you’ll have to dig out of when you get back to the office. In addition to a plan it’s important to train employees/team members on best practices with tools either online (Schoox), in person, or with training materials.
Tips for Everyone:
- Set goals and stick with them. Know what a positive ROI would look like so you can work to attain it.
- Know what talks or events you want to attend and why you want to attend them.
- Make a list of who you need to meet, why you need to meet them and make it happen.
- Set meetings in advance with 5-10 prospects, vendors or strategic alliances.
- Look to develop strategic partnerships with those who can assist you.
- Carve out 30-45 minutes to check back office operations (MacroMatix) in the morning and again in the afternoon each day to deal with e-mail, voicemail, scheduling (HotSchedules), manager notes and communications (Digital Red Book) and issues in the home office.
Tips for Attendees:
- Plan to attend the talks or events that will have the biggest impact on your business in the shortest period of time.
- Try to build strategic alliances with at least two other participants whose skills and experience can help you in your business.
- Review a map of the trade show in advance and make note of which vendors you WANT to see and those you NEED to see.
- If it’s a big trade show, divide the hall and your efforts by the number of sessions or days you will be at the trade show.
- While trade show vendors come to the show to develop business from you and your colleagues, their fees enable your industry or association to produce an event you can afford to attend. Try to visit them. Treat them courteously and say “thanks.”
Tips for Vendors:
- Don’t schmooze with colleagues or co-workers during the trade show or other conference events. Your company spent big bucks so you could develop new business and increase your income. You should spend every second with laser-like focus on business development. Set up a task or reminder to follow up later using a daily planner, digital solution (Red Book Solutions) or exchange business cards.
- Keep off your phone while in the booth. Using your smart phone in the booth, even if there are no prospects around, is like skunk spray. It tells people to stay away, you’re just not interested. Step out of the booth to deal with calls or messages that just can’t wait. Yes, even if it means leaving the booth unattended for a few moments.
- Schedule time for your biological needs and take care of them elsewhere. We all need to drink, eat and relieve ourselves. Create a schedule that allows regular restroom breaks and the ability to eat away from the booth. It’s just not OK to cram down a hoagie or slice of pizza in the middle of your company’s most expensive piece of real estate.
- Greet everyone who passes by and start a sales conversation. Even though you are in a room with thousands of your best prospects, you need to engage them or they might just pass by, never to return. If you don’t greet these prospects, your competitors will!
- Bring your A game and keep bringing it all day. Your company spent a fortune and you have just a few days with your best customers so you have to start each day off with your best effort and find a way to keep the intensity all day (and through the nighttime events too).
Our time and our money are finite resources. While it sounds nice to drop a bundle of loot on a junket in Orlando, Las Vegas, or San Francisco, the most successful business people I know set goals and objectives around their participation in conferences and trade shows and then used dogged determination to stay focused and reach their goals. These successful business people usually find a way to have a great time while they are at it. Hopefully, these tips and techniques will help you to do the same.
Matt Walles is Director of Business Development at Red Book Solutions. Matt attended his first three-day trade show on the concrete floor of the Sands Hotel and Conference Center in 1991 wearing a pair of hard soled leather shoes. In addition to the importance of proper footwear, Matt has developed a long list of trade show “do’s” and “don’ts” based on more than twenty years of success, failure and observing those who get it right and those who get it horribly wrong.