For over 40 years I have been attending conferences and business exhibitions. Mainly related to offshore oil and gas and more recently the rampant renewable sector. In the main, I really enjoy them. They give the opportunity to meet old acquaintances, friends and most importantly to meet new people for obvious reasons.
However, if you haven’t prepared you won’t maximise the opportunities that you hope will present themselves. I am going to discuss now as if I was attending as a delegate. I don’t have a stand so I’m going to be a visitor walking the aisles meeting people.
Why are you going ?
It may seem blindingly obvious. You want to meet and persuade people that you have something they need or have a solution to their problems.
You also want to identify new opportunities, get better informed on competition, latest technical developments, potential partners, how others promote themselves, and gather general information, not forgetting the gossip, etc!
So have you checked ?
You know what you want to promote when the opportunity comes along?
In these digital days you may have information on a memory stick which is better than lugging around a briefcase full of brochures. But if your own “message” is not clear then the memory stick will just get wiped and certainly not read!
Have you thought about what you going to say when you meet a new contact and get that vital 20 seconds in which you can introduce yourself and the benefits for the contact ! Remember it’s “what’s in it for them” that’s important, not how great you think your company is. They want solutions !
The exhibitor list ?
So you can decide which stands you want to visit and the contacts you want to make and give yourself the best chance of meeting the right people.
Done your research ?
To have a target list of companies and have some understanding of their operational issues or production problems, to which you can offer the answer to their prayers. You can create a list of contacts you want to touch base with, discuss something specific with or find out who you should be talking to.
Have you told people that you are attending?
In these social media days it fairly easy to send out a notice to your contacts and connections that you are going to be at an event. It doesn’t guarantee they will flock in to meet you but this always worth doing and sending a personal email to people you would like to meet can sometimes pay dividends.
The conference agenda ?
The conference gives you a chance to see who has attended and are interested in in a particular subject. Sit at the back and at the end of a row. Get in early so you can see people coming in. Once you are satisfied you have identified any good contacts you can quietly leave, get back to walking the aisles and return for the end of the presentation session to have a conversation with people as they are leaving. Beats hoping you may bump into them in the aisles!
Eat early ?
A lot of people will congregate at the “low cost” food stall area. Getting there early means you get ahead of the queue and you may see the people on your list, or who is taking to who, which is also worth noting.
The aisles, the best bit ?
This is the most productive place at the event. When your company has paid for a stand, then ensure you have enough people there but have one person always walking the aisles who can meet the delegate population and direct them to the stand. This might be the most important thing you do!
Remember the business cards and the timely follow up afterwards - which can often be largely prepared ahead of the event ready to be personalised.