Guide to Networking at Trade Shows
Networking is one of the main purposes of participating in any trade show that every distributor or supplier can leverage. For single line reps, trade shows are the golden opportunities to develop new contacts, get their products and services noticed and to stay updated about promo industry.
Trade shows are complex and there is a lot of pressure on the supplier exhibitors too. Suppliers work non-stop from booking booths to its best positioning, planning of education sessions, showcasing best and new products and meeting new distributors’ prospects.
Multi-line Suppliers go to great lengths to attract passers-by so they definitely come up with some sophisticated and latest tech gadgets and interactive platforms whereas for distributors everything has to be planned in a cost effective manner.
Here are 16 tips which would help you make new connections like a pro at your next trade show:
‘Relax’ and have ‘an attitude of approachability’, this simple step would help you move further with your preparations as with stressed mind you would not be able to handle the visitors.
If you have never networked before, practicing before the main event will help you gain confidence and later your interactions will go more smoothly. Check if there are any local expos in your surroundings or professional associations, practicing at these events would help.
Some trade shows have attendees list before the event, you should know who your visitors will be. Also you can have a good idea of what speakers and vendors will be at the conference, through this you can finalize whom you would target at the event.
Plan things ahead as trade shows are already busy enough. Making before or after the trade show is the perfect time for meet-up.
Fly the day before the trade show and come back the day after the expo. Flying early will help you check in at the expo, set up the booth and complete other necessary tasks before you have a big crowd.
Staying late will help you network with potential new contacts when there are few attendees. Additionally, you don’t have to cut off a good conversation due to time limitations.
You and your fellow attendees should have a clear idea of what your marketing message will be for new customers at the trade show. For this, a proper training before the expo should be done and is practiced many times along with each other or else you might freeze up when you start the conversation with the visitor.
You should be able to quickly highlight what your company is all about and about yourself too. Make use of promotional product at that time. When the customers walks away, he should have complete details of your company with a desire to return back and learn more.
The dress code may vary from expo to expo, therefore do some research beforehand. Do not dress up in a fanciest way or too casually, in the middle of the spectrum would work. Not only your dress but wear comfortable shoes too as you might have to stand for a long time or walk a lot.
Though we are living in the digital world, but never forget ‘old is gold’. When it comes to networking, those old fashioned business cards always work. Carry a lot of business cards that includes your name, title and company’s name.
Giving these cards to the visitors allow them to memorize about the conversation.
Of course, you are at a trade show to build network but remember this isn’t door to door sales. Initially focus on getting to know speakers and fellow attendees rather than just exaggerating about your agenda of being at a trade show such as launching of new product.
Though, your job is to interact with people and tell them about your company but that doesn’t mean that you just go on praising just about your company. You need to think about how you can bring value to the interaction, may be by helping other people at the trade show as well. For instance, if the visitor is new to the city, you can help them know what they can do after the expo. This will make you stand out in people’s memories after the show.
Do not just scribble at the back of the business cards, it may get lost sometimes. It’s better to have some kind of digital master file, where in you can save all the contact details, may be on a simple spreadsheet. This will make it easier to go through them and will help you figure out how to follow up after the trade show.
Many a times trade show networking success comes from attitude, therefore relax and enjoy yourself. People love to interact with someone who are confident enough to explain. Hence, smile if you make any eye contact and do not cross your arms over your chest.
If you are attending the trade show with co-workers, take some time to go solo and attend panels or networking mixers on your own. This gives you an opportunity to make some new friends; even it’s just for the expo.
Additionally, if you are alone, you’ll look more approachable and it’ll be easier for you to approach others too.
Ask people some specific, interesting and open-ended questions rather than just bumping on them by asking, so what do you do? You cannot just say hi and hand over your card to someone and ask them do refer me to your other friends too. Just think why he would do that, he just met you once.
Hence, be prepared with some ice breaker questions such as what brought the other person to the expo or what they thought of the keynote speaker panel? This will open up the conversation in a natural way and things will work on your path.
When you are at the expo or before expo, be social. Connect your visitors via LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter, promote them and you’ll share incredible and beneficial relationship that will last long.
The opening moment is key for successful networking interaction. Therefore, when you are approaching someone standing by themselves, wait for a moment, think about how to initiate the conversation in a decent manner so as to have a fruitful interaction.
When you start the conversation, your half work is done but you should also know when and how to wrap things up. If you see while interacting, that the other person is looking here and there and is distracted, this show they are no longer engaged and it’s time to wrap things up in a gentle manner say hi to another associate you see and see off the previous ones.
Finally, the expo is over. Does that mean you are done with your work too? Not exactly, now you will have to follow up your contacts but do not speak to them in a sales pitch. Do not expect results right away, be patient.
You can send them a simple thank you email, referring the conversation you had at the trade show and offer to keep in touch. Good thing is to use your newsletter or blog to nurture your leads without directly bumping into the sales pitch.
Networking at trade shows could be tricky but following the above tips would not only help you get new leads but you also get great conversations and industry friends too.
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