Know Why You’re Going
Before you go, be very clear on why you want to go and what your goals are. Are you going to increase brand recognition? Are you attending to test the waters for your new product or service? Perhaps you want to check out the competition and determine how your product edges out the rest. No matter why you’re going to a tradeshow, distill your reason for attending into a mission statement and stick to it. Tradeshows are the easiest place to get distracted and lose sight of your goals. If your focus is getting your brand and name known, don’t spend all your time scoping out the other guys. If your purpose is to gather intel on what companies have products like yours, then you won’t want to spend all your time talking up yourself. Identify your mission and choose to accept it.
Prepare Ahead of Time
To maximize your time at a tradeshow, you must prepare. Know where you’ll be set up, figure out the general layout of the conference center, and identify quiet areas for meetings. Having areas already mapped out will save guesswork and lost time while you try and find a quiet space to gather with potential customers or clients. You’ll also want to confirm with the conference organizers the size of the table or booth you requested. There’s nothing worse than showing up and finding that your banners and supplies won’t fit because you ended up with five feet of demo space instead of ten.
Rather than hope you’ll run into that potential prospect you’ve wanted to connect with, have a chat at least a week before the conference and arrange a meeting time. As much as possible, plan meetings with hot leads/prospects before the convention. Your time will be on their calendar, and they’ll already be thinking about you or your product/service before the tradeshow arrives. Tradeshows are perfect places for meetings and get-togethers with potential clients and interested prospects. But if the people you want to talk to are busy with everyone else, you’ll never get to present your product and/or service.
Tradeshows are perfect places to network and connect with others in the same industry. While we wouldn’t suggest leaving your booth for hours at a time, do walk around, get to know other attendees, and participate in pop up events wherever possible. Always have business cards and your cellphone at the ready to take down information, instantly connect with people on social media, and take those all-important selfies. Be confident and friendly, engage with as many people as possible, and you could be surprised where your new connections lead.
Making connections during the conference may not come with much difficulty. But keeping those connections after the tradeshow is over can be the hard part. After everyone has gone home, and you’ve had a few days to recuperate, get on that social media platform and reconnect with all your new friends. Tag them in pictures with a catchy line that says how much you enjoyed meeting them. Send them a private message that says how pleasant your conversation was. Thank them for their time. And if you especially want to keep the fire going, ask them for a follow-up meeting to discuss points from your tradeshow conversation. You may even want to set those meetins up before you leave the tradeshow. Coffee shops are perfect meeting places that allow for a quick and informal follow-up if they live locally. If they’re in another state, ask for a few minutes on Skype or another platform that allows video calls. Whatever you do, follow-up so those new connections don’t get lost.