Do you remember your first day at university? Awful, wasn't it? Sure the experience ended up becoming unforgettable, but initially, all you saw was a sea of strange faces and what would be the best way to introduce yourself.
At trade shows, it is easy to feel like that fish out of water again. There is no reason you cannot overcome this, even if it is your first trade show. Engaging relationships and networking at trade shows should be as important to you as it is to your company.
How do you want to feel at a trade show? Like the captain of the sports team or the outsider that scribbles alone in the corner? We already know the answer: that's why we provide you with 10 essential tips so you can get the best out of networking at trade shows.
- Don't be taken by surprise: Study beforehand who the attendees of the event are, especially the companies you are most interested in making contact with. Who are their CEOs, communication managers and marketing team? Who should you approach? Also, check if someone is going to participate in an event on the days the fair is taking place, such as a public talk or a presentation. It's a way to make sure you'll bump into that person in the chaos of a trade show.
- Identify your customers: Review the user analytics on your website, app, social networks, or online store if you have an eCommerce business. Create potential customer profiles, and you should see if you can find these profiles among the trade show attendees. Should you seek the attention and interest of adult men over forty, young people in their twenties or female entrepreneurs? Investigate every possible combination so as not to waste any networking time on the wrong demographic.
- Business cards at the ready: Have enough business cards with your contact details and company information and store them in an easy to reach pocket where they can be accessed in an elegant manner. Likewise, every time you receive a card from another person, immediately put it in another pocket, so as not to mix them up with your cards and give the impression of being a networking novice.
- Social media focus: Add people you just met as contacts or send them invitations via their social media profiles as this doubles the probability of being accepted or them following you back and remembering you. Once you've done this, it becomes much easier to engage in digital conversation or schedule an appointment, call or meeting, now that the effect of networking is 'hot'.
- Choose the right moment: It's better to have a conversation or a meeting in a specific place rather than in your booth or in the middle of a crowded corridor at the trade show. If you still prefer your booth, then check out our tips for a creative trade show booth. Get to know the rest areas or meeting points if there are any at the fair venue, or reserve a small space in your own area to offer a more welcoming and private networking experience to your contacts and customers.
- Set aside time: It's common to intend visiting the entire trade show and in the end, not have enough time to network because commitments or unexpected tasks keep you at your booth or even outside the fair venue. Pre-schedule your activities, meal times and transportation time if the venue is far away (and if you still feel overwhelmed, here you have 20 tips for a succesful trade show management).
- Sign up for everything: Much like university you never know where you will find your new best friend. In the booths area, people tend to adopt a more aggressive business mentality. There are more opportunities to build connections and engage in networking in a more relaxed manner, during activities that are organised in the trade show, whether they are conferences, cocktails or leisure time.
- Expand your network: It's easy to stay within your circle of acquaintances and hope that from them you will make new second or third degree contacts. Be brave and start conversations with strangers and people outside of your usual networking circle, provided you have done your homework and you know who is who and choose the right moment to do so.
- Listen: Why does everyone want to talk to Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, regardless of their political beliefs? Networking at trade shows charismatically involves being warm, without being intrusive and over the top, maintaining an open attitude, being ready to listen, asking questions and demonstrating a genuine interest in the other person. If you are interested, they too will be interested. Offer them help before you offer them your business card, talk about gaps in their schedule or prices, and everything else will follow.
- And don't forget the competition: A trade show is also useful for checking up on what's going on in your own business sector and seeing what the latest trends are. Entrust your team to collect all the information and possible materials about other companies that are attending the fair, by visiting their booths and keeping their ears open. To network effectively, it is just as important to know who you want to have as friends as underboothing who you don't want to reveal your secrets to.
Do you want to start your networking now? Then let us be your next contact and help you organizing your catalogs for your next trade show. The first step for a succesful trade show is a PIM — discover here why, and then call us!