Trade Show Exhibit Networking: A New Way To Get The Most Out Of A Convention
Trade show exhibits aren't just about promoting your product. Learn how your trade show exhibit can help you network with others in your field, creating lasting partnerships and benefits.†
You know that business dinners are all about networking, but did you know that conventions are too? The climate of stiff competition that once existed in the exhibit hall has become one of mutual respect and interaction, particularly among research-oriented professions. In today's world, if you don't talk to the neighboring trade show exhibit, you're not getting everything you can out of the convention.
Starting The Conversation
Friendly discussion at the booth is more common in some fields than in others. If you're in a field like academic research, you're used to discussions with your peers. If you work in a field thatís traditionally more competitive than cooperative, it may be difficult for you and those around you to adjust. To help things get started, try complimenting your competitor on some aspect of product design. Don't be afraid that you'll appear ignorant if you ask questions; questions are the basis of any good sharing dialogue.
Small Talk Is Good
Don't expect to launch into a detailed comparison of your products right away. It's best to start with less in-depth material. There is a great neutral topic that you can discuss: just talk about the convention thus far! You're both likely experiencing the same floods of people and odd silences; comparing notes is a great way to become comfortable.
Don't Try To Become Buddy-Buddy Right Away
Although you want to be friendly with the staff of neighboring trade show exhibits, being overly friendly comes off as insincere. These are not old friends you've known since childhood, and you shouldn't treat them as such. Avoid using terms like 'pal' or 'buddy' unless the person in the booth next door really is your pal or your buddy. Being unaware of this problem could lead to alienation of a potential contact.†
Don't Be Afraid To Exchange Business Cards
Business cards are a great way to stay in contact, particularly if your offices are in separate cities. Strangely enough, some exhibitors balk at giving away cards to new contacts in competitors' booths. This shouldn't be the case. They won't be gleaning your company secrets from your business card, and they can't contact you based on name alone. Think of it like a networking dinner. You wouldn't hesitate to give your card away there, and likewise you shouldn't be afraid to pass it out during the convention.
Follow Up When It's Right
Not every trade show exhibit will yield a productive conversation. You almost certainly won't want to make every one of them a lasting contact. The final step in successful networking is determining who you want to follow up with, and who would be better left without a follow up. If you felt a strong connection with someone, or they're working on something similar to you, then you should absolutely connect with them again. However, if you felt hostility or coldness that left you feeling strange, then you should let that contact go. Trust your instincts and you'll find the right balance of strong networking and tactful response. †
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Harmen is an author for Skyline, the statewide leader of trade show exhibits in New Jersey. A durable, quality Skyline New Jersey trade show exhibit can be customized to fit any business and budget.†