Networking is networking – right? Well not really. I think that women’s business groups, an association event with a guest speaker and these types of events are forums where the networking scenario is a lot more acceptable. Networking i.e. meeting people with a view to building professional relationships and potentially helping each other in the future with work or referrals, is often secondary to “selling” at a trade show.
It needn’t be. However an exhibitor of course does want to see a return on their investment. The focus for them is on meeting potential buyers. So if you are a supplier and visiting as a guest to network, how can you attend and enjoy the networking opportunity provided at trade shows without coming across as being too “salesy” and only using the opportunity to promote yourself and business without investing in an actual booth.
Here are a few tips to help you shine.
S – Socialise don’t sell. You are there to meet people and get to know them. Have a few questions ready to ask such as:
What does your company do?
What kind of products/service do you sell?
What do you like most about your business or role?
How did you get started in this industry?
You will be asked “what do you do?”, so have your answer prepared with a succinct sentence summing up your business or job and offering. Don’t waffle on – keep the focus on them.
H – Have something to giveaway that is of value – rather than waiting or asking for the free product they might have. They may be giving away expensive bottles of wine or beautiful leather compendiums. Don’t eye them off longingly. If you are given a free gift – make sure you send a follow up thank you note. Perhaps give a shout out on social media. And of course return the favour with your own gift.
I – Impress. By that I don’t mean to draw attention to yourself – but do make a good first impression. Smile, extend your hand and introduce yourself. Look the part of a professional by wearing the appropriate business attire. Have a professional business card to present to them. Be aware that an exhibitor may not necessarily want to meet you. They may have an appointment coming up, want to go on a break or just have someone they believe is more important to talk to. Don’t take up too much of their valuable time and just move on graciously. Attend during the quieter periods and you will maximise your chance to strike up a conversation.
N – Network at the variety of events on offer. If there is an after-hours cocktail party and you have the opportunity to attend – go. Attend the speaker events if you are able to. Pay to go to these events particularly if you are only attending as a guest. Chat to the person next to you at lunch. But remember you are not there for the free food or drinks. Focus on meeting people and building relationships.
E – Evaluate your contacts and keep in touch. Determine who you will follow up with immediately and regularly or contact every so often. Perhaps send a LinkedIn request or ask permission to add to your data base. Give them a call to see if they may be interested in attending XYZ event coming up and extend the invitation to join you.
Read more about networking and building your personal brand by downloading your copy of The Power of Personal Public Relations.
Read last week’s blog Stage a Special Event to Showcase your Brand