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Trade shows are about meeting people face-to-face and establishing connections. Whether you are a first-time exhibitor or a trade show veteran, careful planning helps you make the most of your time outside of published trade show hours. Networking both on and off the show room floor allows you to build relationships with potential customers, other vendors and show management.

Focus on People You Want to Meet

Determine ahead of time who you want to meet at the trade show, whether it is industry movers and shakers, potential referral partners or leaders in your industry. Focusing your time and efforts on connecting with the specific people you most want to meet helps you make the most of your opportunities.

Attend Educational Events

Trade shows often host seminars, workshops and events both before and after trade show hours. These events are a great opportunity for you to meet people in your industry, so give yourself plenty of time to arrive early and leave late. Keynote sessions, receptions and dinners are examples of after hours events that offer excellent opportunities for networking. Large trade shows may have events every night, so make sure you check the schedule and plan to attend at least the ones likely to attract the people you want to meet.

Develop an Elevator Pitch

You should always be ready to provide a clear and concise answer to the question, “What do you do?” Besides highlighting what you do, your answer should also communicate who you help and a key benefit you offer, all within the time of an elevator ride—about 20 to 30 seconds. End your pitch with an open-ended question to engage the listener and keep the conversation going. Once you have created your pitch, practice saying it until it feels natural and develop a few further questions to ask people if you have more time for conversation.

Train Your Staff

Provide training to your booth staff so that they have appropriate responses to questions and can represent the company well both on the floor and off. Give them a schedule of the show so they know when other networking events are taking place, and give them opportunity to attend educational workshops related to their field.

Talk to Everyone

Whether you are heading for the trade show floor or standing in line for the restroom or an event, talk to the people around you. Strike up conversations with strangers and make it your goal to meet as many new people as possible. While we all tend to gravitate toward familiar faces, make an effort to sit with new people at every event.

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Use Nonverbal Communication

Show people you are approachable and make a good first impression with these nonverbal communication tips:

  • Remember to smile
  • Greet people with a firm handshake
  • Use eye contact
  • Listen actively
  • Stand up, unless the person you are talking to is sitting
  • Maintain good posture
  • Avoid fidgeting

Ask questions of the people you meet and let them do most of the talking. This helps create a good impression and lets you look for ways you can help them through your business or a referral. Be engaged as a listener and be ready with additional questions and comments to keep them talking.

Befriend Organizers and Exhibitors

Try to get to know the show organizers and staff; let them know what you are looking for and they may be able to direct key people toward you and your booth. The same applies to other exhibitors, particularly those who are in neighboring booths. An extra set of eyes is helpful in watching for people you hope to meet.

Build Relationships

Focus your attention on developing relationships rather than making quick sales. Look for ways that you can help others, and they will be more likely to return the favor. Obtain contact information and write down a few notes about the conversation. Tell the person how you plan to follow up, whether it is sending them an article you talked about or getting them in touch with someone. Then make sure you do what you said by following up a few days after the show.

Explore Purposefully

Check out the welcome booth and attend the welcome reception to find out more about events going on during and after the show. Be sure to check the trade show’s website and social media feeds throughout the show for information about last minute changes or new events.

Trade shows are an ideal time to network and establish relationships with people in your industry. Nimlok Louisiana offers comprehensive trade show services to help you make the most of your trade show experience. Our team of specialists can help you obtain the information and products you need for a positive trade show experience.