Updated: Nov 24, 2019
Participating at exhibitions, Conferences and Seminars as an exhibitor, a speaker or an attendee all offer excellent opportunities to increase and grow your business.
At the same time, you are inundated with huge amount of new information in a very short time, while at the same time having to still deal with your on-going business causes most people to feel overwhelmed, often times exhausted and almost always difficult is to assimilate.
I was working with smaller companies, where we created a business brokerage booth where we would bring relevant people from large potential companies, in this case Telecom Operators and System Integrators, to meet with small companies who otherwise could not get access to these potential customers. Some of the companies came for pre-event coaching, where we would prepare them in detail on how to maximize their investment. Clearly defining objectives (you would be surprised how difficult this is), people they wanted/needed to meet in order to fulfill those objectives and how they would find them.
When you are at a brokerage event, have your own booth at an exhibition, or are just an attendee - you meet many people and you CAN’T JUDGE A BOOK BY IT’S COVER. It is just as important to be able to very quickly determine what is the interest of the person you are talking to and how and if you can obtain your objective. The last thing you want to do is spend your valuable time wasting it on someone who can bring you no value while right next to you is an important potential client.
This is not simple, we created a set of specific qualification questions to help them quickly determine what type of conversation they were going to have with each person that matched the objectives.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s ok to spend your time teaching a student about your technology – just make sure that if you are doing it, you also have your ears and eyes open for others to hear that may want to learn as well.
At the same time, I also saw companies that did not get the focused preparation – it’s almost embarrassing to share some of the common mistakes – my favorite being trying to sell someone something when they have come to sell you something and are in no way the potential client of your service/product – even if they are from the same company you are targeting.
Often times, people are so busy before an exhibition that they don’t have time to prepare. Even companies that are fortunate to have a strong marcom team that prepares the messages for the event, and may even been scheduling meetings are not guaranteed that the individual employee is going prepared with clear personal objectives on how to maximize the event.
So here is a Checklist and Tips to help you maximize your investment at any event
Maximize Event Checklist
Know your Objectives
Clarify your Specific Messages
Allocate Time according to Objectives
Prepare Qualification Questions
Define Documentation Process
Schedule Meetings in Advance
Leverage your investment Allocate time/Budget for Post Event
Tip 1 - Objectives
Clearly define what you want to get out of the specific event. I know this seems obvious, but you will have multiple objectives and limited time. How would it feel to come back from an event with many new contacts, but none of them relevant to grow your business? Or miss out seeing what the competition is doing. Are you looking for investors? Want to get feedback on your idea?
Tip 2 - Clarify Messages for different Objectives
Marcom teams in large companies create the customer messages for an exhibition. If you are in a smaller company, once you know your #1 objective, you can also create the main message. However – Pay Attention! It’s critical to adjust the message for different types of objectives. For instance, if you are meeting a potential partner – you will of course want to show them how they can grow their business by offering your service/product to their customers. (Not the same as using it themselves!)
Tip 3 - Time Allocation
Time management is something that we hear quite often but we don’t think applies to use. (especially if you are from Israel) - I assure you it does. Never is it more important then when you go to a busy exhibition with hundreds of people. When I want to get the most out of an exhibition, I look at my objectives, define how much time I want to spend in advance on each of them. I actually prioritize them and list the companies I want to see. This is almost more important if you are in a booth without a brokerage where you may have to find the critical people you want to meet. I used to go to exhibitions and in my free time “cruise” to see what is happening in the market. That is fine if someone else is paying for your time. Once you have your own business, I learned from my business coaches to always pay attention to time – it’s the most valuable asset we have. So if you are going to check out competition, or look for a specific potential customer – “let your fingers do the walking” and find out where they are before you start wondering, and pay attention to tip 4 to save more time.
Tip 4 - Qualification Questions
Define the questions you are going to ask the person you are meeting so you can quickly determine what type of conversation you are going to have and how you can maximize your time with that person and/or have a polite exit strategy. Remember – Always leave a door open as you don’t know who are meeting with and where you will meet them again – but don’t waste your time on when you have a clear objective of whom you want to meet. For instance: the most basic question is to find out what they do and what interests them regarding your solution/product/service – before you start telling them about what you do.
Tip 5 – Create Documentation System
Define a System to Collect Information in Advance. You know you will come back with an overload and will want to follow up (read my tips/checklist on post event). Once you have your objectives and the type of people you want to meet, create the system – Apps are great – but there is nothing like writing. Best would be to prepare a sheet for every meeting with tick boxes – a picture of person (if appropriate) and a picture of the sheet is also a way. Don’t overestimate your ability to remember what you talked about with each person. You will forget. When you don’t create the document with the tick off boxes (i.e. urgency/budget/who is responsible to follow up etc) you are likely to miss an opportunity.
Tip 6 – Pre Schedule Meetings
One of the keys to a successful event is in the Pre-Marketing Work you do. Once you have defined your objectives, you should be sending emails, calling people and scheduling meetings. If you are in a brokerage event, don’t wait for the organizers. You will be surprised at how many doors you can open just by inviting people to come see you at an event, even if they can’t, or they don’t show up – you still have the option of following up after the event. I once set a meeting with someone I found on linkedin who was a very important lead. He didn’t promise to meet me at the event as he was very busy. I followed up, managed to say hi at his booth but we didn’t manage to meet. After the event, I followed up and he eventually became a customer.
Tip 7 - Leverage your investment
Allocate time/Budget for Post Event – One of the biggest mistakes I have seen is that companies do now allocate the time to leverage their investment. I hope everyone knows to send a follow up letter to all contacts – for sure to the hot leads and make sure they go into a CRM. What about debriefing? Clarifying how well you achieved your objectives and what you learned and documenting it for future.
Following these steps will maximize your investment in going to an event and create more business for you.