We’ve all been to trade shows that looked promising, but ended up feeling like a bore or a colossal waste of time. You cruise through the trade floor filling up a cheap plastic bag that came from one booth with a ton of cheap swag from other booths.
In the end, you get a box full of business cards, a few new pens, a tiny calendar you will never use, and an equally tiny thermometer that, though it’s magnetic, probably won’t stick to anything. Down at the bottom of the bag you find a stress ball, which you figure on using a lot if you have to endure another day of this conference.
All in all, not a bad experience, but when your time is at a premium, you start to wonder if it was worth your weekend to be here interacting with anonymous brands with booths that all look pretty much the same.
And, from a Public Relations perspective, you begin to look at the same interactions from the other side. You wonder how many brands and how many people set up with little to no real expectations. What were they really intending when they planned their setup, and how did they expect their interactions to proceed? In short, what did they really plan to get out of their investment?
These are vital questions, because far too many trade show or big event interactions deliver solid, tangible, quantifiable results. But, with a few shifts in perspective and action, that can change.
1 — Shift your Approach
Instead of an opportunity to “meet people” and “network” or “get the word out,” look at trade shows or festival events as the first step in nurturing a new client relationship. Some will work out, some will not, but you will get more when you take a more engaged and focused approach to your interactions.
2 — Select with Care
The temptation to go to as many shows or festivals as you can is very strong. After all, there’s “potential” at all of them. But, if we’re being honest, some will have more potential than others. So, when considering your investment in attending or setting up at a conference, event, or festival, be pragmatic. Choose those that will connect you with your client base in a way that’s optimal for starting and nurturing relationships.
As event planner Brian Gefter notes, “Where you are in your business is also a factor. If you’re just beginning, and you desperately need to make connections in your market segment, the larger shows could be your answer. But, once you are comfortable with your lane, you may consider smaller, more focused events.”
3 — Prepare a Custom Strategy
Festival, trade show, and event strategies should not be one-size-fits-all campaigns. Your setup and approach should shift based on the type, size, and focus, among other factors. This is not necessarily about whether or not you should go; but, instead, about who and what you should present when you are there.
Build a message and a presentation that are right for that venue. Focus on making specific connections and creating profitable engagements, rather than just “getting your name out there.”
4 — Develop a Working Strategy for Qualifying Connections
Even if you focus your efforts on targeted engagement, not everyone you meet with be a potential client or even someone that will benefit your business.
You need to devise a strategy that efficiently and accurately determines where each new connection fits in your business-building model. This begins with having a detailed understanding of your own goals: what are you looking for, specifically, and how will you know what they looks like?
Once you understand the sort of connections you are after, you will have a better grasp on which aspects of your business or brand you should feature most prominently.