Oh, the difference one year can make! I still remember booking our first booth for our first conference last year at this time. Actually, we almost didn’t get a booth at all. I was unaware of the fact that we should have booked almost 3 months before. Some begging, strategizing and admitting to our mistake led us to a sponsorship that allowed us a spot on the exhibitor floor (one might actually admit that it ended up landing us the best spot). Up to that point, we had no idea what our first conference would have in store for us.
We walked in to the Toronto based conference knowing 3 things:
- We would be a unified team (from what we wore to the language we spoke).
- We would take advantage of every networking opportunity and attend everything available to us as exhibitors (the evening gala, the hospitality suites, the AGM…).
- We would come back to the office after 3 days of networking and schmoozing and follow up on every lead and every bite derived from every conversation.
I wrote an entire blog following our attendance last year but, in a nutshell, as conference newbies, here’s what didn’t know:
- Vendors who think that conference hours end when the last delegate leaves the vendor floor are wrong. We learned, early on, that the opportunity for meaningful relationship building continues on… into the wee hours of the night.
- Even if a delegate tells you they have no decision making power, talk to them and show them what it is you do. We probably gave demos to over 80 people from one corporation who repeatedly told us we would have to get the nod from Corporate. While the decision maker never came to our booth (although we tried to get him there), the corporation has since admitted that they always know when we attend a trade show because everyone who sees our product calls corporate to make a request to have our product in their home. Those calls reinforced the relevance and the validity of our product’s offering which opened the door for a meeting with the key people in their organization.
- When the delegates are in session, mingle with fellow vendors. By letting them know that you’re there, you’re giving way to opportunities for partnership, advice from those with experience and again, meaningful relationship building.
We are, at this very moment, preparing to attend the same conference. The difference, this time, is:
- We’ve been nominated for an Excellence in Innovation Award, giving the gala a whole new meaning for us. Last year, we took note of the nominees and winners and made mention as well as congratulated the winners the following day when they presented themselves at our booth. This year, we have that to look forward to as well as the potential to be recognized by one of only 2 memberships in our sector for the idea we’ve developed.
- While last year, we were the ‘Poster Board Sponsor’, we were admittedly unaware of the impact of that sponsorship opportunity. Our name was everywhere on the tradeshow floor and our logo got some recognition to say the least. This year, not only are we the sponsor, but we applied for and were invited to present our own poster board.
- We’ve been invited to present at the Innovator’s Den, a new offering at this year’s conference. I don’t know when the last time is that you were afforded the opportunity to have the attention of and speak to 300 prospects for 3 minutes but that’s exactly what’s coming our way.
As a collective, our team works hard and we’ve certainly come a long way! We’ve gone from newbies to nominees, from sponsors to participants and from a virtual unknown to a highlighted product on the conference’s largest stage. The most valuable lesson learned last year; seize every opportunity thrown your way. You never know where the simple spark of a conversation on the trade show floor might lead!