19 Ways to Get More from Conferences and Trade Shows
With trade show season we wanted to share some great tips from one of the best sources we know. We hope to see you out and about!
1. Dress professionally, but in comfortable shoes and clothes – if your conference includes a trade show, you will be on your feet a lot. If you’re uncomfortable, you’re not focused on gathering information.
2. Engage others in conversation – people often remark that the most valuable information they get at trade shows comes from the hall talk. Why? Because it’s peer to peer conversation. It’s interaction with others who face or fought the same battles you are fighting. To start a conversation, simply introduce yourself. Extend a hand and say, “I’m Sofia from Smalltown.” Or, ask the person what speakers he recommends, what the good sessions are, and so on.
3. Eat lunch with someone new – sit down at a table with people you don’t know. Introduce yourself. Meet new people.
4. Take lots of business cards – exchange cards with everyone you meet. Write notes on the back of the cards you collect. Build a database of contacts you can call to continue hallway conversations in the future.
5. Plan your dinners – plan meals with others. Don’t eat alone. Eat with a peer, competitor, speaker, or vendor. Evening meals are a great time to get to know someone better and to pick up information.
6. Have fun, with restraint – Bar talk can be as profitable as hall talk. When you go out at night, have a good time, but not too good. Don’t drink too much or stay out so late it affects your ability to function the next morning.
7. Take a recorder – there is so much going on at a good seminar and show that you will overload on information. Before you get a chance to write down the nuggets and gems you pick up, they’re gone, forgotten. With a recorder, you can quickly make notes for later.
8. Turn your mobile phone OFF – check messages during scheduled breaks. Only respond to the urgent and critical. Let the rest wait until the end of the day. You’re on a quest for knowledge.
9. Plan your sessions – if you can’t attend every session, pick up a conference guide the night before and plan the sessions you will attend. Choose sessions based on the speaker or topic. I seek out some speakers, regardless of topic, because they are always fascinating and interesting. I seek out some topics because they are important.
10. Be flexible – having carefully planned your seminar, be open to change. In your hall talk, you will learn which sessions are better than others. Make adjustments accordingly.
11. Ask questions – if you have questions during the conference, don’t be shy. Ask them. No speaker objects to questions. Questions prove at least one person remains awake. Don’t hesitate to talk with the speaker or exchange business cards after the session.
12. Don’t waste your time in unproductive sessions – if you pick the wrong session, don’t be afraid to quietly slip out and find another. Time is too precious at a conference to spend it in a session focused on a topic that’s not relevant to you.
13. Plan your show – make a list of the vendors you want to see during the trade show the night before. Depending on the size of the show, use the show map to plan how you will see them. Don’t forget to leave time to simply walk the show.
14. Approach vendors – exhibitors want to tell you about their company and products. Don’t be afraid to approach them. Ask what’s new. Ask what the exhibitor can do for you. Ask what the exhibitor can demo.
15. Divide and conquer – if more than one person from your company is attending, plan your sessions and show together to cover more ground and prevent overlap. Get together during the conference to see if there are any seminar sessions or vendors you think your co-worker MUST see. Get together after the conference and debrief.
16. Collect literature – pick up lots of literature during the show. Quickly review it at night. Create a pile to take home and discard the rest. Before leaving, sort through your pile one more time, discarding anything you will not read on the flight home or give to a co-worker after your return.
17. Make lists – every night, BEFORE you go out, make a list of the most significant things you learned and a list of follow up tasks. On the flight home, pick the two most important and put the rest away.
18. Write up and present what you learned – while it’s still fresh, type up a bullet point list of things you learned and present it to everyone in your company unable to attend the conference. This will help your retention.
19. Take action – without action, a conference is little more than a bad vacation without the family. Implement your two most important ideas right away.