Whether you have your own stand or are simply attending an expo or trade show as a visitor, industry events can be goldmines – both for growing your connections and network, and to get ideas and inspiration for your business. But like any bustling room full of total strangers, they can also be pretty intimidating! We take a look at some simple hints and tips to get the most out of industry events, and achieve the best possible return on your time, money and effort.
Have A Game Plan
If you attend an event purely because you feel you should, you’re not likely to get a whole lot out of it. You should always have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish.
Get your primary objectives down on paper, and brainstorm how you’re going to achieve the outcomes you want. Fleshing out a mind map is one way to organize your thoughts, or if you’re the analytical type, a checklist you can work through step by step might be more your thing.
Let’s break it down with an example. Say you’re launching a new startup in the food industry, so you’re attending a local expo as a visitor. Some of your larger goals might be:
- Network with potential suppliers for information and possible discounts
- Connect with successful business owners for tips and advice
- Conduct some surveys with local foodies for market research
You could then expand these points with specific questions you want to ask, products you want to source, and industry experts whose brains you’d like to pick!
Now let’s examine it from the point of a company with their own stand at the same event. Their goals might look a little like this:
- Wow potential customers with free samples
- Boost brand recognition and raise awareness
- Connect with marketing experts to get more customers
- Give out coupons or vouchers to encourage attendees to look you up again later
Once you’ve got your goals defined, it’s time to come up with a strategy for accomplishing them. Most large events will have a list of attendees available before the show takes place, so you can prioritize which stands you want to visit. If you’ve got your own stand, make sure all your employees who will be attending are prepared, and know exactly what their role is.
It can be useful to do some practice runs back at the office, with you pretending to be a visitor walking past! Bear personalities in mind too. You can’t expect naturally shy and nervous employees to shine under event circumstances. If you’ve got more timid employees attending, make sure they’re accompanied by an outgoing type who can bolster their confidence!
Tech can also be an invaluable asset when you’re trying to get information down as quickly as possible. Tablets can be extremely useful, as they allow you and your employees to capture visitor information quickly, essentially replacing the traditional signup sheet. You can also have preloaded media ready to play and share with attendees and new connections, and even take photos or videos of interesting products on the go. You don’t even need to buy them, as you can easily rent iPads for your team just for the event itself – a great way to keep your costs down.
Make Contact Before The Event Too
Often we place so much focus on the event itself, and following up on new leads after, that we forget it’s possible to extend feelers well before the event too. If you’re really looking to make an impression, then the more times you can reinforce your brand’s name in someone’s mind, the better.
If networking is your primary goal, establish casual contact with businesses that will have a booth at the show beforehand. You can follow their social media pages (LinkedIn pages are especially useful for this) and connect with the main stakeholders online so you’ve got a name and a face to keep an eye open for come show day.
Offer To Give A Talk Or Presentation
Lots of events have at least a few speakers and presentations to keep attendees entertained. Well before the event, make contact with the organizers and pitch them an interesting and relevant topic to discuss. You’ll have to ensure the subject material is useful to as broad a range of attendees as possible for them to bite. If they go for it, keep your presentation brief and informative. This is not the time to be delivering a sales pitch, but rather establishing yourself as an industry expert.