“Are you an exhibitionist here this week?”

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I usually think pretty well on my feet, but I admit, I needed a few moments to respond to this inquiry. Several things went through my head. “Is someone an exhibitionist for a specified period of time? Am I wearing a trench coat? Is this the right place? Has she asked everyone that question? How do I respond?”

 
 

Finally, I came to my senses and responded, “I am exhibiting at the conference, yes, thank you. I am also a speaker, etc.” I still don’t know if I handled that one correctly and if, somewhere, there is a young woman still asking every attendee if they expose themselves to others.

At another conference I observed a “gentleman” approach two women who were representing their solutions for an industrial organization. “So what agency are y’all from?” Silence. Awkward. Silence.

​”Well, I am the Vice President of Sales and my colleague is responsible for much of our marketing. How may we help you?” She handled it like the professional she was.

As you can see, some of the funniest and most interesting experiences I have had in business are at conferences. I have met other people in my industry who have grown to be great friends. I have met some of who have become great customers. I have met some who are both. I have recruited talented people to my company from conferences and been recruited to join other teams.

Regardless, the most important thing I know about trade shows is that successful attendance involves a plan. Pre-show outreach, the right people in attendance from your organization, and becoming a presenter are all strategies that lead your company closer to success.

Here is a quick list of easy ways to maximize conference/trade show attendance:

  • A pre-show email to possible attendees. Many conferences provide this information. (Hint: include a picture of your team so attendees recognize them)
  • A pre-show call to invite high value prospects to meet for breakfast, after hours or during a break.
  • Present on a pertinent topic. Have a template in your marketing files with case studies. Hint: If you get a customer to co-present with you, your chances of your submission being accepted quadruple.
  • Don’t sell at the show. Engage, ask questions, seek to understand the needs of attendees but DO NOT sell. Schedule follow up discussions to begin a more formal sales discussion.
  • STAND UP! My pet peeve seeing highly compensated sales people sitting behind their expensive exhibit booth talking on the phone with existing customers (or friends or their spouse) while their next customer walks by. Ask them later and they’ll say, “oh, the traffic at this show is really slow.” Hmmm…
  • Have fun! If you laugh and enjoy yourself, smile and joke a bit with the attendees, you will be WAY ahead of other attendees.

In most cases, it only takes one or two good conversations to make the investment of time and money pay off. If you’re going to expose yourself to the industry, you might as well make it count.