As a small business owner, your job is to be aware of everything out there ― events, news, products, etc. ― that pertains to your company. One of the best ways to stay up to date is to attend events and shows that are connected to the focus of your business.
You don’t have to attend every show in existence, and you certainly don’t have to stay for the whole program, but definitely take some time to pay a visit to shows that can help you make important connections and advance your business goals.
Below are some tips on how to get the most out of events and shows:
Bring Business Cards ― No matter where you go, you should always have business cards on hand. You never know who you are going to meet on the street that might need your service or product. At a trade show pertaining specifically to your business, you’re going to need to bring an ample supply. It doesn’t matter if people actually ask you for a card, you’re going to make sure they get one either way.
After you’ve given out your card, ask for one in return. A good number of people who take your card will throw it in a free bag and never look at it again. Some might take note if they’re excited about your business opportunity, but others will have met so many people that they’ll forget. Take a card from everyone you meet, and as you step away make a little note about what they said and why they are important so you don’t forget.
Plan Ahead ― Most shows will have a map of the companies attending available before you get there. Take a brief look at the booths and pinpoint the ones that you really want to visit. Wandering around aimlessly when you get to the show is a big waste of time. After you’ve chosen which booths to visit, you need to prioritize and come up with a plan of attack. Start at one spot in the room and work your way back, hitting all of the booths that make sense.
If the show has seminars, plan accordingly for these as well. Some seminars can teach you new and valuable skills, while others might just be motivational talks. If you’re in need of motivation at the time, then check it out! If you’re going strong and your time is better spent elsewhere, maybe skip the opening keynote speaker.
Schedule Meetings in Advance ― Most likely there will be people attending the show that you have done business with in the past or you would like to do business with in the future. Some of these people will be located in a different state, and those are the ones with whom you really want to touch base. Give that person a call a few weeks prior and see if they can have lunch while in town. If they’re coming to your hometown, recommend your favorite restaurant or bar as a meeting place. If it’s a new location for both of you, the show materials should have great restaurant suggestions. It will be a lot easier for them to focus on what you’re saying away from the hustle and bustle of the show in the background.
Talk to Everyone ― Sometimes you might not be in the mood to schmooze, but that’s too bad. Make a connection at every booth you circled when planning your attack. Don’t just hop over and drop your card in their jar, take a moment to introduce yourself and tell them what you do. Even if this is the 100th person you’ve talked to that day, make them feel like they’re just as special as everyone else. After you’ve explained who you are and what you do, then give them your business card.
Listen to Everyone ― You had your turn to talk, and now it’s time to listen. The people behind the booths or in the cafeteria line might have something to offer that you never dreamed of. Don’t forget that business is a two-way street.
Have Fun and Learn ― Trade shows and events might seem like a drag, but instead look at it as a great way to scope out the competition and learn about businesses that relate to your own. Go in with a good attitude and be prepared to soak in everything you see ― not to mention the fact that you can often leave with a bag full of free goodies!