Trade shows remain an essential revenue generator for B2B publishers. Whether you’re a conference host, presenter, exhibitor or attendee, it’s important to prepare a networking plan of action. Before you even step off the plane, you should have a thorough understanding of your audience. How many attendees? What companies are attending? Who are the major keynotes? Have you earmarked the sessions you want to see and the people you want to connect with?
Gain critical brand visibility, build on established relationships and get to know new leads. Here are some simple reminders to make the most of your time, create a lasting impression and foster smart leads:
1. Design Your Mission. Look up the attendees. Do you have any known prospects or clients that will be in attendance? If so reach out to them ASAP. Schedule some time to catch up and determine if your new offerings are a fit for their changing business. You should also use this list as a prospect list, which attendees make sense for your business, then be on the lookout and casually bump into them during the event.
2. More Peanuts, Please. Networking can start before you even arrive. I can’t count the number of times I have met a fellow conference attendee en route to the event location, whether at the airport, on the flight or train. I recommend requesting the middle seat on the plane. Before you roll your eyes, think about it. This gives you twice the odds of a productive connection than if you sit on the aisle or by the window.
3. Let’s Lunch. Once you are at the event, never eat with your co-workers (or alone). Don’t think of breaks in the program as a time to catch up on emails or with your teammates. This is prime networking time. Always eat with people you don’t yet know in an open seating venue. And like the airplane, sit where you can converse with more than one person.
4. Be Social. Attend all the pre- and post-function gatherings, cocktail receptions, etc. Yes, we are all tired after a full day of sessions, but these planned networking events are great places to make good connections. Remember, most people at the event are in the same boat as you are—they want to meet new people.
5. Be Prepared. Never, ever, ever run out of business cards. Bring lots. If you need this explained you’re in the wrong business. (I think every piece of luggage I own has business cards stashed somewhere, just in case).
6. Deliver the Hook. Have a very short compelling statement about how you can help your prospects solve their problems. While this is an elevator pitch, no one really cares what you do. Prospects want to know that you can help them. Take the time to create a few versions. During small talk you can learn enough about your prospect to determine which one to use to capture his/her attention!
7. Be an Early Bird. Go to the breakout sessions 15 minutes early. You’ll be the only one in the room with… the speaker. This can be a great way to network one-on-one with industry leaders, consultants and people you might not otherwise get an opportunity to meet.
8. Be a Connector. If you know someone that a fellow attendee is trying to meet, provide an email introduction after the conference. This positions you as a valuable resource within your industry. The people you introduce will be more likely to return the favor in the future and make introductions on your behalf to potential prospects.
9. It’s not about you. Ask the most powerful question in the world. “How can I help you?” You immediately demonstrate that it’s not about you; it’s about them. Too often “amateur networkers” are only thinking how people might help them. That’s backward! If you ask how you can help someone that you’ve just met, you immediately build rapport. Plus, most often their natural response after they’ve answered is to return the favor and ask, “How can I help you?” Thus, a valuable contact is born.
Attend the next trade show with confidence after reviewing the attendee list and identifying key prospects with business cards in hand. From the time you set foot on the plane to entering the convention center, always be networking.