Seasoned Advice looks at the world of business building + branding. Storytelling and lessons learned with the attitude of a big sister and the unconditional love of a cosmic mom.
Seasoned Advice: Entrepreneurial Strategy
[How to] Win at a conference or trade show
Duuuuuddddeee, conferences are hella hard work. To make them worth your while you have to invest some sweat equity.
You have to carve out at least a day from working in your business to work on your business. When you get back to your desk, you’ve got more follow up to do than a door-to-door salesman peddling replacement windows.
it’s waaaaay more effort than “grab a stack of business cards and work the room.”
In the theater of biz dev, the actual event is the denouement. ROI comes into play in the “what happens next…” part.
To capture opportunities you need achievable goals, clever strategy, and the stamina to talk shop all day.
In the subsequent days, next steps require that we summon the wherewithal to remember detailed bits of conversation with key people AND have their contact information for fast follow-up.
Bonus points if you have the processes in place to close a few deals, created low-hanging fruit by peer-to-peer networking, shared experiences, and completed some industry crossover. (Your website and LinkedIn are on point, too, right?)
If you’re new to conferences, trade shows, and industry events, take heed.
These kind of face-to-face meet-and-greets can be loaded with win-win scenarios and favorable circumstances for business dev, if you know how to approach it.
Conversely, if you’ve got more plastic lanyards collecting dust than a worn-out Roadie for the Rolling Stones, get fresh perspective on maximizing your time at industry events.
#protip Make the most of it.
Go deep vs. spread thin.
I like to find one or two conferences and go a mile deep and an inch wide. I return year after year. I make a name for myself and inch up the speaker chain towards the best time slots and next-level introductions. What starts as big-fish-little-pond grows into big-fish-big-pond over time and secures your growth at the event and in industry.
Shout out to DC PODFEST,my go-to gathering of like-minded folks doing business and launching projects on my level. And while I don’t have a podcast myself, my ideal clients either have one — or are thinking about developing one. Also, being on various podcasts & livestreams is a damn fine way to increase awareness about your products and services. Soooo…. #winning!
Donate a door prize.
What does it hurt you to throw a little (or big) somethin’ somethin’ in the welcome wagon? You’ll have an amplified opportunity to work with someone right in your market, if you’ve done your homework. Pick something that doesn’t cost you more than sweat equity and contribute an investment in the overall value of the conference.
Kinda like this blog post. See what I did there? Further the event’s content and conversation by adding your voice to the story and connecting with tags and hashtags. Pics or it didn’t happen, amirite?
Play in the sandbox.
Step up, jump in, play. Participate in as many activities as you can. Be a team player. ID a synergy between two or more conversations, take the time to connect interested parties. Attend the coffee breaks without zoning out on your phone. Stick around for the group photo or closing keynote. Make yourself accessible and opportunities will just start walking up to you.
Represent as a Subject-Matter-Expert.
You’ve got something to say, goddamn it. Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge, lessons learned and best practices. Wear your “Mentor Hat” for the day and coach anyone who asks. This is no time to covet trade secrets or play your cards close to your chest. This is peer-to-peer networking, make yourself known for the things you know. Whether it’s keynotes or leading a workshop or simply engaging in casual conversation with other attendees, be the expert and share the wealth.
One of the strongest tools in any marketing mix is public speaking. If you’re not turning these talks directly into sales, it can feel like more volunteer service than a biz opp. Too often, we start to think of speaking as charity work and community building. I implore you to not overlook your colleagues at Speaker Socials and working the room. These are the future business allies going after bigger and bigger work, forming teams and taking on partners. Be at the right place at the right time. Leads in a referral network are a force multiplier, making a much bigger impact on your bottom line than one or two one-off projects or a small retainer. #perspective
If you’re not ready — or lucky enough — to keynote, capture the next best thing. If you’ve got a workshop or or a talk you’ve got ready to go, reach out to the organizers and see if they are looking for programming like yours. Sometimes just showing up and showing interest is enough to get your foot in the door.
If you’re not ready to lead a workshop or the conference already has a similar thing already in place, get creative. I held a FREE 20-min brand strategy sessions in a hallway for two years before I could lead a classroom at DC PODFEST. This year I’ve been invited to be in the conference’s Expert Alley in addition to my session. (Squweee!) Stick with it, develop your teaching tools, show up, express interest and be patient.
Have a hand out.
Beyond the business card, bitches. Please do not show up to an industry event as an expert and have no thing to hand out to interested parties and curious people. I am not talking about a sales brochure, something bound for the circular file. I am talking about collateral that is value-driven and informational. Give ‘em some take-home wisdom and brand the fuck out of it. Structure it like this “How to with some solid advice on actions steps and a little ‘well lookie here, if you need help with this thing, here is my 411.’” This is how to stand out like a meerkat in a mass of mediocre and phone-it-ins.
Thinly-veiled sales calls for the win.
Got a table, booth, talk or workshop? Offer this select audience an opportunity to get with you one-on-one for 20 minutes on the phone or ZOOM sesh in the weeks after the event. Make it specific and relevant to the topic at hand. (For example, in my branding workshop on Positioning, I offer a 20-min call to review the positioning statements they’ve come up with using the worksheet I’ve put together.) Direct the call with what you promised to deliver, then usher your lead down your sales funnel with a pitch.
#spoileralert These are sales calls.
Get a goal in mind before you get to the gate. “I am just going to meet people and hope to gain followers / leads” isn’t going to cut it. Get super specific. This year, I am focused on being invited to be on podcasts. That’s my goal: get on at least three by the end of Q12020. Concrete. Actionable. Attainable. Now I know what to say when people ask, “and what can I do for you?” Mutual back-scratching? Yes, please.
Trade events rock, if you pick the right ones and come at it with a unique perspective. The people who attend them are just as eager as you are to advance the industry, impress colleagues, and get remembered.
You can easily fill a funnel for the 6 weeks following an in-person event.
Go git it.
Who are your tricks of the trade show? How do you get the most out of a conference or industry event? Tell me your trials and triumphs with peer-to-peer networking and public speaking in the comments below or on social @rebeccagunter_
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