The most important reasons people exhibit at a trade show? To see what's new and to gather leads - information for future business.
So, how do you that besides standing in the booth and walking the aisles? The word is “Networking". It is much more than a buzzword. Networking is a conscious, planned effort to get the most of quick encounters, in. brief time periods, and to develop a lasting mutual relationship.
WHAT IS NETWORKING?
The concept of networking got its start with job searches and head hunting. Like a spider spinning a web, a job seeker leaves a trail of resumes, going from point to point, tying knots in the process, until the quest (the web) is complete.
In the beginning, your technical skills will be required, but it's your people skills that keep you going. Technical expertise is important as it puts you on one level, but it's people who raise you up in the business world.
Networking should be of mutual benefit. What can you offer to raise up the other person?
At a trade show, position your firm as an expert. Besides meeting people at your exhibit, here are other networking suggestions:
* Have technical experts in your exhibit at selected times for conferences or to answer questions. Promote this before and during the show.
* When possible, have your staff participate on panels and as presenters.
* Make all of your staff experts - Select a trend and be certain everyone is up to speed. Talk about it in every conversation on and off the show floor. Always use your company's name in the conversation - make your firm the trendsetter.
* Send a report of the show to all contacts made at the show, highlighting the trends and comments visitors made about your company.
When you give advice, you are recognized as having superior knowledge and expertise. When others ask for advice, they are acknowledging that they don't know something. It may be difficult for people to ask for help. Part of your networking skill will be to recognize when advice - instruction - information - will be helpful to the person.
It's important not to talk down to or make other people feel uncomfortable, as you provide information. Use simple words and increase your vocabulary as you establish rapport with the visitor. This is especially critical when introducing new technical products and services that may have new words or language attached to them.
Sometimes, you'll be asked for information you don't have. You must determine what you know, what you have and what you need. If there are gaps, determine what you need to do, who you need to know, in order to bridge those gaps. Remember, it's OK to say, “I don't know" what asked a question, but it is your responsibility to find the answer and get back to the questioner as soon as possible.
BUILDING THE NETWORK
Through your life you will meet thousands of people. From a chance encounter on a school bus to the second cousin of your neighbor's best friend, from a mail order supplier in London to a tennis partner - we are surrounded by contacts. Some of these people will be critical to your success.
The Internet allows us to broaden our network greatly. Sometimes luck plays a role in who we meet at the show - you might meet the school bus buddy or the second cousin. The world is getting both larger and smaller at the same time. Manage your time and effort to be attuned to those conditions that improve the odds of good luck and serendipity - accidental discovery.
Enjoy your next show.
Julia O'Connor - Speaker, Author, Consultant - appreciates the nuances of networking. She is president of Trade Show Training, inc. and often teaches clients how to move strangers to strategic networking partners.
http://www.TradeShowTraining.com - 800-355-3910