We may be knee-deep in the digital age, but conferences and trade shows are booming. Numbers are up at New York’s Comic Con, South By Southwest generates over $200 million annually for Austin’s economy and numbers at the biggest annual tech event in the world – the Consumer Technology Association’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – are also growing. Because for many, exhibiting at trade shows and conferences is an essential part of doing business. Nothing beats looking someone in the eye, shaking their hand, and having a conversation, right?
Conferences and trade shows aren’t just a great platform for getting the word out about your products and services; they’re also handy for creating content you can use on your site and social media platforms way after the last lanyard has left the building. Here are our tips and strategies for getting the most out of the show.
1. Press the flesh. You’re there to sell your product/service, but sitting back in your booth twiddling your thumbs is definitely not the best way to do it. Instead, get out there and use your time effectively. Visit other booths, chat to other exhibitors and be active in your industry. Pre-arrange networking meetings with existing and new contacts also at the show (and if possible, have a quiet area in your booth where you can host one-on-one appointments and talk shop).
2. Choose the right staff. We’ve all been to conferences where the exhibitors are clearly counting down the hours until home time or trying to mask yawns. So ideally, you want friendly, dynamic, outgoing staffers manning the booth; employees who can speak knowledgeably about your product/service and whether it can benefit attendees.
3. Attend sessions. Check the session schedule. If something’s of interest, make time to go or send a staff member if you can’t make it. Take notes, especially if the information could be useful for a blog post later. It’s good practice to credit the information to the speaker / company holding the session, too – chances are they’ll be chuffed and return the favour sometime.
4. Be social. Give your customers a sneak peek about what you’re up to, tweeting snippets about the show, interesting tidbits from the sessions you’re attending, interspersed with your news, promotions and photos from the exhibition floor. Be generous with plugging other exhibitors if you’re impressed with what they’re doing or are collaborating and don’t forget to tag them in your tweets, Instagram posts or Facebook/Google+/LinkedIn updates.
5. Engage rather than sell. Chances are you’ll get a fair few movers and shakers from your industry walking past your exhibition booth, and when they do, take the opportunity to chat – about the show, the best things they’ve seen or learned from attending, what they’re hoping to find / learn / see. What are their needs? Can you solve any for them? What do they like about your product/service? If you connect well, see if they’re open to a conference selfie and tag them on your social media: ‘Met the lovely XX from XX company today; loving his/her insights on XX’. It’s a great way to build engagement and new contacts.
6. Boost your mailing list numbers. If you can offer new sign-ups a great incentive – a free download, ebook, an amazing prize – even better. Social media followers are great but you have no control over how these platforms can change their algorithms, which may affect your reach over time. Your mailing list is the one thing you can control and something you should work hard on building – and a conference offers a captive audience and a great chance to do this.
7. Outsource the important stuff. Your stand and brochure design; your copy, your branded merchandise. The experts know what you need and how to best present your message to the masses – and let’s face it, you’ll have an audience of literally thousands at your fingertips, so it pays to get those marketing materials right from the get-go. (Shameless plug: we can help here!)
8. Make sure your stand ‘stands out’ from the crowd. Draw attendees in with free stuff, tasty stuff, giveaways. A coffee machine so you can give away free coffee, or a juice bar on the bigger budget stands are both great options. Think also about what you can give to punters so they’ll remember you long after the show ends – like a cool tote or satchel branded with your logo. Branded mints, cookies, a sample of your product can also work. Contact us for more great ideas!
9. Promote before the event. Of course, you want to hope people will find you on the floor on the day – but why not make it super easy for them? Boost your visibility at the show by reaching out to current and potential customers beforehand and inviting them to visit you at the show. For VIPs, send personalized invites and follow up with phone calls. Drinks, games, trays of food also can’t help draw crowds.
10. Follow up! Don’t let those sales leads go to waste. Block out time right after the show to reach out to your contacts with personalized emails; thank the regulars you connected with and follow up with potential customers. The upside of doing this right after the show is that you’ll remember the person, and they’ll remember you… and hopefully it’ll lead to fresh sales.
How do you make the most of a conference or trade show? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.