Including industry conferences in your annual marketing plan is a large financial commitment. The following are tips on how to work the event to make the most of your investment.
Before the Show
1. Set Goals: Know what you want to achieve out of the event, whether it’s meeting a certain number of people, collecting a quota of cards, or having a specific number of meaningful conversations. By doing so, you’ll make the show worth attending.
2. In the Spotlight: Try to land a coveted speaking opportunity to get a third-party endorsement. Typically these slots are limited to exhibitors and sponsors that have expertise that fits into the conference agenda’s timely issues. So if the conference coordinator isn’t knocking down your door with a presentation request, ask the account executive who sold you your exhibitor package how to be a possible presenter or who they can refer you to.
3. Call on the Media: Your relationship manager should also be able to provide you with contact information for the journalists who will be attending. The press room exists to connect journalists with industry leaders for interviews, usually coordinated by PR pros. These interviews very often end up in print articles and on-air coverage. Conferences can be a great opportunity for companies to have access to dozens of industry journalists at the same time. But keep in mind, these reporters are also busy covering the panels and talking to other companies, possibly competitors, so time with these journalists can be hard to get.
During the Show
4. Active vs. passive participation: Working a tradeshow means actually working at the show! Make it clear to your staff that this is a far greater responsibility than standing behind the table with a smile on your face. Effectively working an event requires constantly greeting people and engaging them in conversation with a smile and a hello. Draw them into your booth so you have time to learn about them and can tailor your company’s advantages to their needs. Remember to ask questions and listen. Offer literature and exchange business cards to help build up your contact database. Enter the contacts, identified by source, into your firm’s database to ensure proper follow-up.
5. Recent Press Coverage: This is the place to toot your own horn — as confirmed by third-party endorsements from journalists. Be sure to bring printed copies of recent press coverage and display them in an attention-getting way. Display colorful magazine articles on posters with an easel and stack the reprints for prospects to take. Have your most current marketing literature easily accessible. Make sure that all visitors with genuine interest in your firm receive the appropriate literature along with your business card.
6. Booth Attendance Required: It is critical that someone is working your booth at ALL times the exhibit area is open. If you send two or three people to the tradeshow, they should rotate through reasonable shifts so that no one person is overwhelmed. You miss out on valuable prospecting time if no one is there to answer questions and provide a face for the company. This also allows time for the “off duty” staff to walk through the exhibits and see what the competition is doing: what is and isn’t working to draw prospects to other booths.
After the Show
7. Follow up: In order to make the tradeshow a success for your company and get the most out of your money, you need to follow up with the leads you generated from the show. You’ve got to move promptly and efficiently on this, while the prospect’s memory of you is fresh. Consider faxing or e-mailing leads and literature requests from the show to your support staff. This way the literature is sitting on the prospect’s desk when he or she returns to work. It makes a good second impression, as your handling of requests for additional information will show potential clients you value their time and provide quality customer service.
8. Evaluate the show: As soon as the show is over, evaluate the success of your attendance and brainstorm ideas while the show is still fresh in your mind. Did you meet your goals? Was this the right audience? What could you have done better? Will you invest time and money in this conference again next year?
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