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#5.20: The “20 Trade Show Tips ” Issue

You’re about to spend two days at an industry conference. Here’s how to make the most of it.

1> Everybody else is here to meet people too

Don’t be shy. When you see someone you want to meet, go right up and introduce yourself. They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t want to meet people. Look for bored people. They’ll be happy to talk.

2> Show your badge

Always wear your nametag high on your lapel, on the right side — exactly where someone looks when they are shaking your hand. Nametags make it easy for people to talk to you. Use a well-placed tag to put people at ease.

3> Best places to meet people

Look for the natural hang-out places and hang out there. By the food. By the phones. Waiting in line. Hotel bar. Hotel lobby. Speakers lounge. Press room. Really need to meet someone? Get in the food line behind them.

4> Booth babes are for idiots

Hey, marketing genius — did you hire sexy models to stand in your booth? You’re a moron. Are you 14 years old? Is it 1970? Half of your potential customers are women. You just guaranteed that they will never respect or buy from your company.

5> Want to meet one of the speakers?

Just ask for a card. They are besieged by people and will get frustrated if you try to get into a deep conversation. Just go up to the speaker and say exactly this: “I’d like to email you about _____. Can I get your card?”

6> Speakers: How to turn the audience into customers

If you don’t have a handout, you’ve wasted your time. You spent all this time and money to speak, then you give people no way to buy from you. Always print a 1-page flyer, staple it to a printout of your slides, and put it on every single chair before you start. It’s a guaranteed way to get new business.

7> Speakers: How to look like an ass

Read a speech that someone else wrote for you.

Read a speech you’ve never rehearsed.

Read a slide that pitches your company.

(They already know what you do or they wouldn’t have come to the presentation. Do #6 instead.)

8> Is it worth it? Trade Show Math

You had a good show if you meet 4-6 people in an 8 hour day. You couldn’t do that with regular in-person sales calls. A meeting takes an hour plus travel. So you’re ahead of the game at a trade show if you make a good contact every 1.5 hours.

9> Travel light

Leave the briefcase behind. Take no paper from vendors.
Just bring a nice suit and business cards.

You’re here to meet people and have conversations. You don’t need any stuff. Spare your back, lighten your load. You’ll be in a better mood and you’ll be more effective.

10> You’re always on duty

You may meet a VIP any time — after hours, on the way to the pool, in the bar. Don’t be drunk. Don’t be an ass. Don’t dress sloppy in public places.

11> Boob alert

Guys, a mid-chest nametag is not an excuse for a full-body visual exam. Girls, put your nametag high and to the side if you want people to look in the right place.

12> Don’t answer your cell phone

Never, ever answer your phone in the middle of a conversation. Don’t even look at it. It’s rude. That’s what voice mail is for.

13> How to tastefully enter a conversation

Look for someone you know. Stand there until you understand what is being talked about. Don’t interrupt people in a serious conversation; don’t talk when you’re clueless about the topic.

14> Answer your email at home

Put away your Blackberry and PC. Events are a major business opportunity and a major learning opportunity. Don’t waste it.

15> Skip the Sessions, Work the Halls

If you’re looking for customers then never go to a presentation. You can’t network in a dark room during a speech.

16> Invisible buyers

Your future clients are the hardest to see. Big buyers try to avoid eager salespeople. They often hide their nametags, and they usually aren’t dressed to impress. Don’t blow off the mousy guy in jeans – he may be a Fortune 500 buyer trying to keep a low profile.

17> Walk Around With A Massive Smile

You’ll reassure casual passers-by, make people want to talk to you, and cover for those awkward moments when you can’t remember if you’ve already talked to someone.

18> Learn to Disengage

Some people will talk forever, especially if they aren’t doing any business with you. Learn to master polite ways to move on: Hand them off to someone else. Pretend to see a friend. Fake a phone call. Suddenly remember a meeting. Develop a weak bladder. Best of all — work a room with a wing-man who can rescue you.

19> Where are the VIPs?

They are never on the exhibit floor. Look for private parties and hospitality suites — the more conservative, the better.

20> Breath mints

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