Next week, I will have the honour of attending The Meetings Show. This will be my third year there and, suffice to say, I am far more prepared than ever before. Here are my top 6 tips for getting the most out of any show as a supplier who isn’t yet in the position to have a stand.
- Approach the show as a networking and market intelligence feast
The first time I went to the show, I must admit, I was a bit disappointed. I gained zero guaranteed new clients, had to face my own fears continually and felt overwhelmed.
I made two main mistakes. The first was expecting cash results straightaway. That rarely happens. What does happen is that you meet lots of new people and gain contacts that you just would not have found on your own.
The second mistake was only staying on the show floor and completely skipping the seminar program. If you want to know what is really going on in an industry, pay close attention to what is being taught, by whom and why. That little bit of info will tell you a lot about growing sectors and looming challenges. If you can position yourself as someone who can help clients rise to those challenges, you will be in a very good position.
- Do something random
Last year, the hardest moment was a rather annoying discussion on Brexit where the pro-Brexiteers basically talked down their opposition. That one discussion was what I thought was going to be the best moment. It wasn’t by a long shot. Instead, the best moment happened when I was looking for a scheduled seminar and bumped into the head of an association. That one conversation wiped away the memory of the horrible discussion and helped me to see a new direction for my business.
The same can be said about visiting stands where you don’t have an agenda. Some of my most surprising wins last year came when I went up to stands on a whim, got talking and realised that I could provide some excellent content for some magazines for PAs. Two articles in those magazines later and I landed a spot in Flybe’s Flight Time in-flight magazine. One random idea, lots of real benefits.
Oh and some of the stands had great sweeties too!
- Stay for a while
It surprised me how many people seemed to walk in, saunter round and then leave quickly. You really can’t enjoy a show properly until you have explored every nook and cranny and hung around aimlessly for a bit. It’s those moments when you seem lost that can lead to the best outcomes.
- Get a show guide
Yes, they can be tricky to spot but the show floor plan and seminar guide will be your best friend. I like to mark all the stands I definitely want to visit, along with routes to the toilets and food areas. Sometimes, I will also mark down anyone I missed whom I want to contact. You would be surprised how useful those little books can be.
- Bring a backpack
While the show bags are pretty tough, you will need something special to carry all the magazines, materials and giveaways you get. Having a good, neat backpack also allows you to carry your own water and a bit of extra food, as well as reading material for the journey each way.
- Chill out
You would be surprised at how hard I had to work at my first trade show to get over my own nervousness. I took it all way too seriously, as if I was going to ruin my career if I didn’t manage to chat to that one person from Wedgewood DMC (still looking for another chat with them, actually). Nowadays, I have learned to take the show as a welcome day out of my schedule and to be as naturally me as I can be. It’s surprising how much better that works!