Make the Most of Trade Shows, Conferences You Attend
So, you are planning on attending a conference or industry trade show? Do you have a plan to ensure the show will be valuable to you and your organization?
Industry conferences and trade shows are a big deal for many professionals, businesses and the overall economic impact of our country. In fact, it’s estimated that meetings generated approximately $325 billion in direct spending and approximately $845 billion in business sales in 2016.
How do you ensure the meetings you or your team attend add value to your organization? This is a tough question that each business needs to answer internally. Is the value in new leads, sales opportunities, continued education or certificates? Understanding the purpose of the conference and the value it brings is often taken for granted and not measured – leaving organizations spending a substantial amount of money on perceived value.
I’ve had the opportunity to attend, host and exhibit at many conferences throughout the years. Below are some of my best tips on how to ensure your attendance is worth the expense.
PREPARE & PLAN AHEAD
And no, I don’t mean scout out the best restaurants and night life to go to – although you can do that too! Spend some time to go through the conference agenda, highlight the sessions you want to attend, understand what materials you need to have a successful presence and look at the attendee list.
This will ensure you are prepared for conversations, can attend the sessions that mean the most to you and plan your day to attend/meet up with businesses and individuals you deem the most appropriate. It will also help ensure you have enough business brochures, cards and any other collateral needed to make an impression on those you are talking to.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
This goes hand in hand with preparation and planning. Do your research and know who you will be interacting with, meeting with or selling to. There is nothing worse than sitting through a pre-scheduled meeting with someone who has no idea who you are, what your business is all about or what your product is. Trust me, I’ve been there.
If you signed up for one-on-one meetings or speed networking (which really, let’s be honest, can be more awkward than speed dating!), spend a little time to know who you will be talking to. I always print out their information and predetermine what conversations we should have to better partner together. By doing this you will not only surprise them with your preparation skills, but it exemplifies that you are serious about working together.
PARTICIPATE. PARTICIPATE. PARTICIPATE.
There are hundreds of ways to ensure you are getting the most out of your attendance. One of the most important is participation (hence the receptiveness here).
Go to every open opportunity to network, learn and be as engaged as possible. This includes those awkward social events, opening and closing receptions, fundraiser events, and workshops. If it’s your first time attending, check to see if there is a mentorship opportunity or first-timers event you can attend. Attending a workshop or roundtable discussion? Be involved! Provide advice, offer ideas and ask questions as allowed. Chances are if you have a question, someone else does too, so ask away!
Conferences are some of the best ways to network and meet other industry professionals you may someday work or partner with.
KNOW YOUR TIME IS VALUABLE
While it’s important to participate and be an open and active learner, be wary of your time. What do I mean? Here is an example:
Prior to the conference you are attending, you determine what workshops you were going to attend. One morning you walk into a session, grab a seat and are excited for the presentation and potential discussion. About 10 minutes in, you realize the speaker is completely unprepared or ill-equipped to be giving the presentation and that you have more knowledge on the subject than they do. What should you do?
Get up and walk out. As quietly and as politely as possible, of course. But do not waste your valuable time sitting through a session that brings absolutely no value to you. In most cases you have spent money and invested time to be at this conference. If the session is not up to your standards, simply leave. Go network, find a corner to catch up on emails until the next session or walk the exhibitor floor, but do not waste your resources when you could be doing more to grow your business.
This is so important, and probably the one most people miss. Let me start by saying, I know you are busy and flooded with emails, calls and meetings when you get back, but guess what, that is not an excuse!
Block out some time to reconnect with those you met. By sending a quick “Thanks for your time, it was great meeting you” message you will put yourself ahead of competition who got too “busy” to follow up.
Didn’t attend to make sales connections? Then use that time to put together an event recap. This is a great way to assess the success of the event and the value it provided. Outline who you met with, potential mutually beneficial relationships, upcoming new products or companies to watch, etc. This will not only be helpful for you, but it will be helpful for your entire team as the knowledge and connections you bring back should impact your whole organization.
There are meetings and expos for every business in every industry. Chances are, you already have a conference list ready for 2020. By following these tips, you can be sure your event attendance (or your employees’ attendance) will bring added value to your organization.