I attend two or more trade shows per year. Most of the work (business development, recruiting and client service) is accomplished on the telephone, of course. But there's nothing like getting out there and meeting people in person. Both candidates and clients.
You can see what's happening in the market and people can meet you. There's a wonderful, energized information exchange during the compressed time of a trade show.
Because of my concentration on companies making sports and recreation equipment, I attend Outdoor Retailer and the bicycle industry show annualy. Frequently attend the International Health and Racquet Sportsclub Association show and Club Industry, the biggest shows for fitness equipment.
Have also attended the luggage show, the ski show and the apparel show. During one calendar year, was in Las Vegas for trade shows five times in eight months. (IMO, trade show attendance is the ONLY valid reason for going to Las Vegas.)
Over the years, I developed a code of conduct to get the most out of the shows and avoid issues which might tarnish my professional reputation. Here in no particular order are those ten rules:
1. Book appointments in 30 minute increments. The prospective client is spending a lot for booth space, staff, transportation, etc. Time is at a premium and THEIR customers come first.
2. Someone who doesn't book an appointment makes a clear statement of non - interest in the service offering. Sometimes I " ... stop by the booth" or " ... call on the cell phone." But only once.
3. Research the individual and company in advance. Get a sense of the person's background and accomplishments as well as the product offering. Knowledge is power.
4. Select a hotel some distance from the convention center for two reasons: your privacy and their privacy. Keep a clear separation between work and rest times.
5. In Las Vegas, never gamble or go to strip clubs. Either activity reflects poorly on one's professional demeanor and will have prospects wondering why they would spend with you.
6. Never partake of alcohol during business hours even if offered free at a show booth. Same rules apply at shows that apply at home. Don't want to smell of alcohol before close of show.
7. A social drink after the show is fine. A little wine with a business dinner is fine. Beyond that, you're sending the wrong message. If you want, buy a bottle and take it back to your hotel room.
8. Meet candidates in a public space. Take separate transportation in both directions. That way you can avoid any potential allegations of forward or inappropriate behavior.
9. Trade business cards with each person you have a conversation. When you're back in the office, send an email thank you with some personal reflection on the meeting to each person.
10. Observe who has foot traffic and excitement. Check out the product offerings. When the show is over, call them with market intelligence ... which will differentiate you from others who want their business.
Trade shows can be a valuable selling tool if you understand how to work them well. Are there additional ways to maximize your investment of energy, resources and time?