“Do you suppose we’ll meet any wild animals?” asks Dorothy, “well some," replies the Tin Man. Have you ever attended a networking event and it felt like you were entering the dark forest? I bet Dorothy and the crew didn't expect me to drag their dark forest into the chaos of attending industry events, but I did.
We take part in these events because they are all a necessary part of sales and business.
I’ve met people that despise working tradeshow booths or prefer to sit at their desk and live in a digital world. There's no one magic event or channel that is the be-all-end-all solution to successful marketing, but in my opinion, if you are going to make an effort to attend, exhibit or network, then you need to go all in to make it a success.
I used to live in Orlando, and every trade show you can imagine happened in Florida, or at least it felt like that to me. Because I was “local” I was at them all.
I had to create a mindset that allowed me to enjoy standing on my feet all day long handing out stuffed animals to people. Most of said people had no idea what we were selling and more times than not; they were the "guest" loading up on our $5 freemiums for the kiddos back home. I now affectionately call myself a booth junkie because I learned to love them. The mind game I constructed was to interact with as many people in my target market as possible in as many languages as I could speak (OK there's only three so don't get FOMO on me).
Whether you're an attendee, a presenter, or an exhibitor, there are specific strategies and mindset that you can put in place to get the maximum results from your efforts. It's how you go about getting ready for these events ahead of time, that makes attending in person, more productive. Let’s take a look at activities that you can do to support a productive event.
What to do BEFORE an Event
Before you attend a trade show, seminar, or networking event, you need to document what it is you hope to accomplish by attending the event, set simple goals. Once you have your goals down, you can start to build a strategy that will keep you focused. Yeah, here I go again talking about planning a strategy. However, in life, and business, some things are entirely out of our control. It's when we capitalize on the few precious items that are within our control where you can set a clear strategy, amplify your efforts and set yourself apart from the competition.
Ready, Set, Go – Strategic Planning for Events
There’s no need to walk through the dark forest and sneak up on the cowardly lion when you can let him know in advance that you are on your way.
The strategy you prepare in advance will include a list of people (speakers and attendees) to meet, vendors and talks to attend. Be clear and make sure to start with the subjects that caused you to want to participate in the event in the first place. For example, if you're going to a trade show because you're looking for a new software vendor, then you need to outline the functionality that you have identified will solve your problems before you leave your office. Make a phone call ahead of time and schedule an appointment with someone in the booth for a demo.
Connect with the Speakers on Social Media
Another tip is to look ahead of time at the list of speakers that are going to be presenting. When you are setting your strategy and intention for the event, you know ahead of time the skills or content that you're seeking. Only attend the events that will add value to help you achieve your goals. It's helpful to visit the speakers’ LinkedIn or Twitter profiles and connect with them in advance. Make sure you know the hashtag for the event and search for what everyone is talking about or promoting. If you feel networking with the speaker will help you, then reach out to them directly and let them know that you're looking forward to listening to their topic because you feel the value they will be delivering will have a direct impact on you and your company. You may be surprised; they might want to connect with you and offer one on one assistance on their subject matter of expertise because it is their passion.
Networking with a Purpose
If you are going to an event to network, make sure you network with intention. Don't shoot the s*** with people that will not help you move forward in your business or career. Understand what you're looking for in a new relationship, potential employee/employer, or mentor. Then, seek to connect with people or companies that actually possess the skill set you are looking for. I get it, hanging out with your colleagues is great and sometimes fun because you only get to see them occasionally. But ask yourself this question, “is my time, which is my most valuable asset, best spent with people that are not helping me reach my goals?” I am not dissing your BFF colleagues that perhaps can help you reach your goals, but you can talk to these peeps at any time because you work for the same company. Resist bellying up to the bar to whine and moan (and if this is the activity at an event you most look forward to attending, you may want to visit my last blog on personal values, just saying). Get yourself out with your key targets and biggest clients. Schmooze, add value, connect and build rapport.
Networking is Not Like a Baseball Trading Card Game
Let’s get something straight. Networking is not like a baseball trading card game where the goal is to see how many business cards you can gather. No, no, and no. Networking is simply building intentional relationships with people. Uncle Google says Networking is the exchange of information and ideas among people with a common profession or special interest, usually in an informal social setting. I am sure there are lots of books and blogs out in the WWW that you can read to help you with the latest and greatest speed, snap, networking technique, but don’t over complicate things. Head to your next networking event and connect with people that are your tribe. You have two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you speak. Find out how you can help people and bridge connections. Be of service, create value, and then, when you truly have a clear ASK, people will be lining up at the chance to help you with what you need. Please give it a whirl and let me know how it works out for you.
There you have it, my thoughts on how to strategically tame the lions and tigers and bears, in the dark forest. Follow your own yellow brick roadmap and make adequate time before any event to get clear on WHY you are going, WHAT you expect to learn, and WHOM you need to meet. Set simple goals for yourself and take action. As a result, you will achieve faster success and higher productivity. You will come home with tons of value to begin implementing immediately, and maybe one day, you too will be a booth junkie.
Good luck and happy selling.