Conventions and trade shows can be a lot of work. You have to make sure you’re registered, made all the necessary travel arrangements and accommodations, and have your display and all of your marketing materials ready. And this is all before you even get there!
Then, there are the days of endless grip and grins, presentations and cocktail hours—only for you to pack it all up, head home and hope you got a few extra clients to make it all worth it.
Conventions are especially challenging for programmers, developers, and other professionals who are often more comfortable in front of a computer than a crowd. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Well, it still will be a lot of work, but conventions and trade shows can also be very beneficial to businesses if the opportunity is used wisely. It’s about preparation and strategically making the right connections. Check out these tips that will help you rock your next convention or trade show like a superstar.
1. Get connected
The first thing you need to do after you’ve registered and made your travel arrangements is start connecting with fellow attendees on social media. Consider this your homework.
Making these connections is like getting a peek at a big party’s guest list. It will allow you to know who you want to spend time with at the event and who you can catch up with later. It will also make working the room a little easier since you might feel like you already know the people (even though you might have never met them in person). On the flipside, this also lets people get an idea of who you are and learn about your work before you enter the room.
2. Be the life of the party
Once you’ve made all of those online connections, you should be ready for face-to-face interactions. Brush up on your people skills to make them feel like it’s a natural progression to continue those conversations in person.
Make sure you have a firm handshake, look people in the eyes and be authentic. Be an active listener to nurture the relationship. Don’t spend all of the time talking about yourself and your needs. People will be able to see through that and won’t want to work with you. It’s important they see that your online personality is no different than your offline personality.
Remember, this is a chance to make new connections and build existing relationships, so you don’t want to spend too much time with the same person. Make sure you acknowledge each person who stops by your area, and take the time to get around the room, too.
3. Don’t let them leave empty-handed
You want people to remember you, right? One way to do that is to have some pretty unique swag to hand out. People love free stuff, but only if it’s useful or different.
You can also offer an incentive for people to come over, such as snacks that have a strong and delicious smell. There’s no shame in getting to them through their stomachs. Once they are there, you can tell them more about your company’s new rebranding efforts or how’s you’ve taken advantage of recent trends in software development. While food is great, once it’s gone, your new friends are leaving empty-handed.
Give the people a chance to let loose. Set up a backdrop and put out a box of props for them to take photos of or with. Design a graphic to print on the photos and put them in folders printed with your designs or logo. Not only will it remind them of you when they look back on it, but it’s also a great way to display some of your work.
Set up a table with additional swag including key chains and magnets. Include informational packets about you and your work in branded binders. It will not only be easier for people to not lose your information, but they’ll also find the binder helpful in organizing all of the other documents they collect from the event.
4. Make them feel welcome
As hard as you try, there will still be people you’ve never met or who haven’t heard of you at the event. A one-of-a-kind display is a good way to get them to stop by so you can meet. There are going to be hundreds of displays there, so it’s important to add something special that can help you stand out.
If you’re a graphic designer, use some of your designs for the backdrops or signs. This will ensure you have a custom display and it will showcase some of your work. Set up comfortable chairs to encourage people to stop and take a break. Have some fun music playing, or have a game or raffle in which people can participate. The goal is to make your area the place people want to be.
Of course, you aren’t done when the event is over. You have to continue building those relationships and follow up on those new connections. Each trade show and convention is different, and some might not be that great. But with the help of these tips, that won’t matter because you’ll be the star of every show. Have you found some other great strategies to get the most out of a convention or trade show? Share them in the comments below.