Business trade shows and expos are good networking opportunities

Consider business expos and trade shows as additional business networking sites

You know that attending business networking events is a crucial marketing strategy. You try to attend at least three networking events each month, right?

After reviewing all the networking opportunities in your area, you might wonder, Can’t there be something else? How about networking during trade shows and similar events?

how to give presentations

That’s right. Drum up business–or at least prospects–at trade shows and similar functions.

The twist here is that your focus isn’t on other attendees. Oh, I encourage you to chat with other guests. But for this exercise you will be prospecting to the exhibitors. That’s right: the vendor reps manning the booths.

This requires some tact and professionalism on your part. You are, after all, hitting on salespeople; that is, folks who are there to sell. They’re not supposed to spend time listening to sales pitches.

The following business networking tips grew out of an event I attended in the Milwaukee area. While no sales came of my efforts, I learned a lot. I’d like to share my experiences in hope you can benefit.

1. Attend on a slow day.  Thinner crowds means a better chance getting quality time with the exhibitor.

2. Select the businesses to target. Ask yourself, “What is the angle?” Why do you have permission to approach that booth and take up someone’s time? The most obvious reason, of course, is that you’re interested in buying from the the firm. Other possibility is that you’ve had contact with the business in the past and are curious about any changes.

3. Start by asking about the firm. Give the exhibitor a chance to go through his or her presentation and ask you questions. Answer honestly. Be mindful of other attendees approaching the booth. Step aside so the exhibitor can talk with them.

4. Listen for the window of opportunity. This is your chance to transition into talking about your opportunity. If one does not present itself, you’ll have to create an opening.

In one case, the exhibitor opened the door. Glancing at my name tag, she asked, “What do you do?” At another booth, the person dropped mention of a timeshare program (and that she loved to travel). I represent a travel club, so eventually I segued into talking about that.

5. Offer your pitch. This will be essentially an enhanced version of your elevator speech. Watch for clues that the person is bored or concerned (eyes darting around, change in posture), and be ready to wrap up. Be especially mindful of other members of the exhibitor staff walking by. The person’s boss may amble over, at which point you need to either book out or change the subject.

6. Keep the visit brief. Try to complete the entire conversation in about 10 minutes. The other person needs to move on, and so should you. Swap business cards, thank the person for his time, and move on to your next target.

7. Record your notes. As you do during business networking events, take a moment or two after every conversation to record your thoughts. Don’t wait until the end of the event. You won’t remember all that you heard and said. Follow up, if possible.

Trade shows and business expos aren’t considered prime networking opportunities. But they offer you the chance to hone your networking skills and perhaps come away with a prospect or two. Take a few moments now to research the trade shows in your area. Then, put a few in your calendar, and give it a try.

For additional tips on networking, see “The power of networking” and “Additional tips for attending business networking events.” 

Have you prospected to vendors at trade shows? Were you successful? What business networking tips can you offer? Feel free to comment below. And if you found value in this post, could you do me a favor and share it with others? Use any of the links below. Thanks.

Tom Fuszard, content writer, blog writing, pr writing, web copy



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