Events, exhibitions and trade shows are almost always about networking, just as much as sales. They are golden opportunities to meet others in your industry, scope out the competition and come away having made new contacts who can further your career and the growth of your company.
Having said that, it is surprising how many attendees of business events spend so much of their time lurking inside their booths and rarely attempting to seriously engage with others.
While a well designed exhibition booth could make a big difference in your success at any given event, it is certainly not the only thing you would need to make the most of your day.
You’re bound to not make as many connections as you could if you’re one of the ones who is reluctant to start the conversation. Here are some tips for making that first step.
Arm yourself with industry news
Don’t go into battle unprepared. Find out about some news or current events relevant to the industry, event or businesses in attendance and use them. Little titbits could serve as conversational openers or could just be dropped into chats where relevant. It’s not terribly difficult, and could even be done on the spot – if there are trade magazines lying around at the event, which there almost certainly will be, a quick flick through could give you what you need to know.
Set some goals
If you don’t set goals, you won’t be able to gauge whether your attendance at an event was a success. Byfinding out as much about the event and venue as you can in advance, you can set out some aims. Some may be specific – to speak to a certain person or company – or more general – for example, to take a certain number of business cards every hour.
Of course you can be flexible on these goals if the format turns out to be slightly different to what you expected – but this system should give you motivation to get out there and talk.
Business networking doesn’t stop when you pack up your exhibition display stand and go home. Rather than tossing the business cards you’ve acquired into a drawer, do make sure you follow up.
Even if you’ve nothing specific to say to a contact, adding them on LinkedIn or sending a quick email about how you enjoyed meeting them is key if you want them to keep you in mind.