Networking can be practiced and refined in so many areas of your life, from the boardroom to the baseball game, from the office to your child’s school and sports activities. We all know the benefits of networking, but do you take advantage of every opportunity?
So you’re going to exhibit in a trade show – great news – let’s look at some ways to maximize your business networking opportunities.
Yes you are there as an exhibitor and your time will be busy with set up, engaging with your booth customers and of course booth tear down, but let’s not forget the importance of business networking during the event.
Some of the best connections I’ve made and the most help I’ve been able to give is at trade shows.
Sometimes it’s as simple as sharing stories of people you’ve met along the way, who had a similar challenge to what this exhibitor may be having and sharing insight can be extremely helpful. You know what it’s like – you get wrapped up in your own challenges and sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees and a clear solution is not evident. And then someone comes along and shares a story and then the solution is so apparent.
Strategic business networking is helping everyone you meet connect with someone who will benefit from that introduction.
When you meet someone new, approach the interaction as a ‘giver not a getter’. Business networking is not about selling and what you will get out of the meeting or conversation – but rather how you can connect this new person with who you might know to help them. You will be remembered far more and people will be more willing to help you, if you help others first. Practice the law of reciprocity. It all comes back tenfold in the end.
Effective business networking is marketing you – your personal brand and your company brand – but not in a pushy, salesy manner.
Think of networking like the most beautiful chain you own. Its links are connected. Business networking is similar in many ways to that beautiful chain.
- Networking creates connections
- Connections form relationships
- Relationships provide opportunities for business growth and success.
To network effectively and run an effective booth at your tradeshow, you need to be prepared:
- Your booth presentation– do a mock up to size with the booth space taped on your floor and design your booth so there are no surprises during set up.
- Your supplies– this goes without saying.
- Your personal appearance– first impressions matter. You are representing your company brand and your personal brand so make sure it’s impressive and authentic.
If you’re well prepared and set up early, consider giving your booth next to you a helping hand. It gives you an opportunity to create a connection and many hands make light work. Business networking during the show can be frowned upon, you are there to connect with your customers more than exhibitors, but when it’s slow or before and after the event day, take advantage of the time. If you have an onsite eating area, connect with your fellow exhibitors over lunch.
The following checklist will help you maximize your business networking effectiveness at the trade show and ensure you‘re prepared and presenting yourself and your company in the best possible light:
- Have an abundant supply of business cards (order a couple of fresh boxes, you don’t want to run out!). Your cards represent and reinforce you company brand. Ensure they have your full contact information including all social media links. If you’re in business you should absolutely have a completed LinkedIn profile. Your picture will help make you memorable.
- Work on your handshake; it says a lot about you. If in doubt, practise it with people you know and ask their opinion. Wimpy handshakes have no place in business and women should shake as firmly as a man.
- Perfect your pitch. Do you have a one minute elevator pitch nailed down? If not, get one, and keep it succinct, authentic and personal.
- Don’t eat at your booth. It’s distasteful and looks unprofessional. Arrange for some relief so you can take a break and get away from your booth to refuel and freshen up.
- Have some good lead questions in your back pocket. Unsure or uncomfortable about starting or exiting conversations? Visit www.wwbnvictoria.com/blog for tips.
- Set networking goals for yourself; ie. Aim to meet, chat and exchange cards with at least 10 exhibitors and 100 booth attendees.
- Make notes on the back of the business cards about your conversations to jog your memory and any follow up required.
- If you are capturing leads through business cards in the fish bowl or email sign ups, ensure you CASL compliant for the new Canadian anti-spam laws.
- Create a one page introductory sheet about yourself and your business for any truly interested exhibitors and connections that you’d like to have further dialogue with.
- Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to date – guaranteed business people will check it!
- Ensure your website is up to date and your About page is fresh and current.
Networking is an essential part of business and is all about building relationships. You’ve no doubt heard the phrase, ‘People do business with those they know, like and trust’. There’s no better way to build those attributes of ‘know, like and trust’ than by face-to-face business networking. Enjoy your trade show experience!
Deb Alcadinho is the owner of Your Brand Power and Westshore Women’s Business Network (WWBN). She works with business and professional women to develop their personal brands to help them gain their competitive edge and stand out in a crowded marketplace, increasing revenues and their branding. WWBN provides a networking platform, training and business development for business women to connect, inspire, learn, grow and succeed.