This article was originally developed as an internal paper for the Air Routing International sales and marketing team on how to best perform at trade events and conferences.
The author - Robert Seaman is the President of AvAd Inc. and past Chapter Chair for the CBAA. His expertise in this area is based upon involvement in the specialized marketing and communications service that have been developed over a 15 year period exclusively for the business aviation community. During this time he has been a critical part of the design, development and supply of trade show services, displays and booths and sales support materials for such firms as Imperial Oil - General Aviation, Esso Air International, Mid Canada Mod Center, Kitchener Aero, Air Routing International, the Applanix Corporation and many more.
A little work to maximize your effort and minimize your stress!
Attending a trade show or related industry event is an investment of both time and money, by either you or your firm. With the vast number of industry events around today, you have to choose carefully about which to target, attend and participate in. If not properly managed, these events are a grind on your person and also the source of information overload. A little work before you arrive at a show or conference and some quick preparation once you get on site can make your event more productive, less stressful and more enjoyable.
If you are attending a show, here are some organizational pointers aimed at making your effort more effective and productive.
Before you leave, review all the material from the show and familiarize yourself with the general floor plan and the overall schedule. Make notes on any special events or seminars you have an interest in. Set goals - people to see, companies to review, products to learn about, seminars to attend and social obligations to fulfill. And as silly as it may seem - remember to pack lots of your business cards - taking more being better that taking too few.
If more than one person from your office is attending and there are seminars or social events that interest you at conflicting times, agree to divide your efforts, attend both and then review or summarize later. Also remember to plan some personal or downtime and opportunities to regroup with your colleagues. Taking even short periods to get away from everyone and everything lets you digest what is going on as well as plan or review your goals and objectives.
Once you get to the show, register first and then take a moment to review the handouts, site plan and program. This gives you the opportunity to catch any last minute changes that may have occurred.
Upon entering the show area, do a quick reconnaissance of the overall event. Many find it best to first do a fast tour around the outside of the show floor area - checking the location of key spots to visit. Then move up and down the aisles - again checking the attendees and displays against your wish list. Make additional notes of those you want to see and visit with.
Cover each area in detail - concentrate on the people and attractions from your hit list first . . .
Taking an empty card file folio of some sort works best for all the business cards you will collect - it really helps keep things organized for later. You should also mark immediately on the back of a card any pertinent comments like where you met the person, who introduced you, what if anything led to the m
eeting or leads that might come from the contact. As for materials you want to retain like corporate brochures, presentations and such, most displayers will happily ship a package to you after the show if you ask them to. And when it comes to souvenirs, limit what you gather. For both brochures and souvenirs always keep in mind that sooner or later you will have to pack it all for the return trip.
As for how you should dress for the show? The first rule is to make certain that you wear comfortable shoes. The second is to layer your clothes so you can adapt to the show site weather as it may change from hot to cold. Try not to carry anymore with you than you need - like wallets, cell phones (most have only restricted use in a trade show anyway) and brief cases or computer bags. Try to leave yourself unencumbered so you may move freely and not stress you body with added weight or confinement.
If you are working the show as a displayer, here are some basic suggestions to help.
Start by getting your team together - everyone that is attending the show - and set your goals. Detail who you want to see, what suppliers and competitors you will be tracking and make notes of what seminars and special events you want to be at. Also make a booth schedule of who will be on-site. Make sure that everyone gets time to go and circle the floor and take in the show. Just as if you are walking the show floor, pace yourself and allow for breaks - standing on a booth is just as hard on your legs as walking around a big show like the NBAA.
Also, make certain that you keep a central area to retain and file business cards for after show follow-up. Keeping places both on and off the booth to store display materials and give-a-ways avoids clutter and helps make your booth more visually appealing. Too many booths wind up loaded with everything but room to work.
After the show is over . . .
When you get home, regardless if you were an attendee or displayer, make sure that you drop a note to everyone you intend to contact. It is important to get this correspondence out sooner than later. Whether you are thanking someone, asking for information or simply following up, a prompt piece of correspondence illustrates genuine interest and sincerity. It also provides you the best opportunity to reply while specifics and details of your meeting or conversation are still fresh in you mind.
To help you with the next show or event, make certain you keep copies of all notes, flyers and brochures in a file that is dated and titled. Include in this copies of business cards, show programs, competitor information, specifics on your hotel, travel, show fees and of course simple things like names and numbers. Regardless of what else you may do with the material, filing it in this way will ensure that you have something to refer to and tie the contact and information to the time and place of the conference or show.
One final note is to review your show as a team - regardless if all or some of you attended. Talk about what you liked and did not. What was achieved and what could have been improved. And most important, try to track your success or changes - both financial and performance related - in terms of a return on the cost or time investment. This will help you or whoever succeeds you in determining what to do about the next year's event.
A little work and a bit of planning can very easily make trade events more productive, better results oriented and a generally better business tool.
Rob Seaman is the President of BASS Inc. (Business Aviation Service Solutions) - a firm that provides various contract services to support corporate aviation operations, training and development.