We did it! We attended our first full-fledged conference. We met with key people, we had important discussions and we walked away feeling accomplished. Of course, one of the most important aspects of the entire event was our debrief. What did we do well? What could we have done better? Here’s some of what we walked away learning.
- Your booth matters. Yes, I’m talking pure aesthetics. Brand your booth. Accent it with a color that pops. Keep it clean but interactive. In part one I mentioned that this is not an expense, it’s an investment. We went ahead and purchased the big pop up, we rented a bar that matched our brand, we purchased an iMac, 3 iPhones, and lightning chargers to give our entire booth a ‘Mac’ feel. It was branded, tasteful, matched our industry and created some buzz. If you’re going to bother going to a trade show, then MAKE an appearance!
- It’s not time to sit down and it’s not time to update your Facebook status. This is the time to shake hands, engage in conversations, smile big and give eye contact. Invite people to your booth. When is the next time this many decision makers will be in one place at one time? Now is the time to take advantage of the roster of people who will be walking by and you might be just what they’re looking for.
- Give away a great swag item! What could people really use? Get creative. If you have a limited budget, again I say, get creative. You don’t need thousands of dollars to get a product that will get people talking. Look online, see what others are doing and come up with a product that people will walk away with making them smile and making them remember you. Keep it exclusive. We told people they had to listen to a 2-3 minute demo in order to get their hands on our swag, and it worked!
- Bring a team. We assembled a team that was knowledgeable, knew our product and walked around, engaging and driving traffic to our booth. If you’re more than one individual in attendance, this should be your strategy. If done right, it ensures that people are consistently coming to your booth, viewing your product and entering in conversation. How big your team should be depends on how big the event is. We gauged it at 1 person per 100 delegates.
- Understand the conference schedule. This is a rule for 2 reasons. One, at a conference, there will be key moments where all of the delegates/attendees will be walking out from sessions and ready to explore. BE ON YOUR GAME at these times. Their session either left them bored or inspired. They’re ready to hear from you either way! Two, socializing with key players after conference hours can make a huge difference. Conferences tend to have multiple events happening all at one location. If you’re at a hotel, find out what else attendees are doing. Is there a Gala? Is everyone having dinner at the hotel restaurant and after-drinks at the hotel lobby bar? This is where you can have unexpected and impromptu conversations with important people.
- Have fun! People want to engage with people who are smiling, happy and engaging. It is your job to make people want to talk to you. There is nothing worse than someone who looks miserable behind a booth or is walking around, just killing time. Enjoy the event, be present and smile. It can feel exhausting to ‘be on’ for 2 days (or however long the conference is) but your disposition, your attitude and your manner of interacting are key. Push yourself to have fun and enjoy every interaction. Think of how great you’ll feel when you had a successful conference rather just another 2 wasted days doing the same old, same old!
The biggest lesson for me: a conference/convention is what you make it. You’ve got a couple of options: you can sit back, relax and let the event go by. You can opt to engage and interact, meet people and show off your product. You can go ‘all out’, get people talking, generate some buzz and steal the show. I’m a fan of the latter and I’m guessing that whoever’s footing the bill for your attendance is counting on you feeling the same way.