It is nearly Spring and we are approaching trade shows and conference season. You’ve been there. The frantic rush to get your booth and materials ready, to prepare a presentation you have been asked to speak on, or to set up key appointments. We all know trade shows are a good place to put your goods and services on display and connect with sales prospects and other industry partners. Conferences also offer an opportunity to further your education within an industry or niche, make connections, and garner awareness as a speaker or exhibitor. However, with the sensory overload and many options in which to invest your time at the trade show, one can easily get distracted from the mission.
Once you, or your organization, have made an investment to attend one of these industry events, you want to be sure to maximize the PR potential of attending in addition to the business potential.
1. Pre-show promotion
About one month before the conference, you will want to call clients, prospects and media who may be attending to set up appointments and meeting times. Have a written purpose for each meeting and be sure that includes finding out how you can add value for them.
2. Prepare for long days
The convention or exhibit floor is often a long way from your room. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes for walking. I often bring protein bars or a piece of fruit to calm hunger pains between mealtimes. You’ll also want to make sure to have your phone charger and a backup charger because cell batteries drain quickly at all day conventions.
3. Research the media audience and the types of companies/attendees that will attend the show
Review the conference website for an idea of who is going to be there and what types of networking and educational events would be important to attend. Ask the conference coordinator for a list of people/media attending, review last year’s list, and follow the conference on Facebook and Twitter to get a sense of who is attending and with whom you would like to connect.
4. Set measurable networking objectives for your team and check in daily
Set objectives for media networking, new business networking, and client relationship building. Determine with whom each of you should connect and map out a strategy to meet with these prospects and what you would like to accomplish with each interaction. Schedule nightly check-ins to give staff a chance to share experiences and capitalize on relational opportunities.
5. Assign roles and responsibilities
Assign individuals attending the show a specific task or role. Don’t assume team members know what to do on the floor. There is often a lot of down time when exhibiting. This is a good time to observe competitors and take notes.
6. Practice your message
Have your elevator speeches ready to roll off the tip of your tongue. What type of people might you connect with at the conference? What do you these people to know about you, your organization, your products and serves? What do you want them to do (the ask)? Don’t wing it. Write it down and practice.
7. Schedule the tasks/have an event run down
A detailed schedule and plan will help us get the most out of each trade show opportunity. Review the conference schedule and schedule time for breaks, potential meet up opportunities and outside events.
8. Train yourself
Become familiar with your organization’s equipment, products, and sales literature so that you can respond to inquiries as needed. If presenting, make sure you are familiar with how to connect your computer to the onsite technology, how to run the presentation and what your back up plan will be should you have a technology fail.
9. Set up early
Arrive early to set up your booth or table so you have plenty of time for an office store run should you be missing any key supplies. Visit the press room, ensure your kits are displayed at the booth as necessary. Double check you items are in the attendee bags. If speaking, test the technology twice!
10. Watch for VIP visits
Alert sales people to possible VIP industry & media visitors to the booth and make sure they have a protocol for handling these engagements. Train them in key messages or instruct them in what to say/whom to call should media begin asking questions.
11. Take Notes
Note the unusual and fresh ideas on the show floor. Qualify the attending crowd, are they your target audience? Take pictures of any display ideas or branding that inspire you.
12. Make the most of meal times
Use mealtimes as a way to connect with new people or further the relationship with a partner. Resist the urge to escape and eat alone.
13. Attend vendor events that coincide with the conference or trade show
At many conferences, vendors host “after hours” parties and events. Make sure to attend some of these prime networking opportunities or consider hosting one of your own.
14. Go beyond the trade show floor
Often the best networking is at the meeting itself. Pay the extra fees to be a full conference attendee and go to the sessions that are most pertinent to your field. Arrive early and introduce yourself to the speakers and other attendees.
15. Be active on social media
Conferences will likely have a presence on multiple social media channels including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Pinterest is a great way to find out what to expect in the city you are traveling to. Facebook groups often form in advance of a conference to plan and connect ahead of time. During the conference Twitter is used to live Tweet presentations, promote booth contests and conference events. Find out and use the conference hashtag to track what others are saying and doing on site.
To help you prepare for your next trade show or conference, I created a Trade Show Networking Planner, which will help you think strategically about the opportunities that may arise.
What would you add to this list?