Play Full Out or Get off the Ice: Tips for Maximizing Your ROI at Trade Shows

Play Full Out or Get off the Ice: Tips for Maximizing Your ROI at Trade ShowsImagine this. You are a hockey player. (Okay, I’m Canadian, I had to use hockey as my example.) You have an amazing team. You are the goalie and you are poised to win. It’s the Stanley Cup Playoffs and you have all your gear on – your shoulder pads, your skates, your jersey, your helmet, and your face mask. You are ready. You skate onto the ice; you have a chair with you. You place your chair carefully in the centre of the net, you sit down, you pull out the sports page, and you start reading. The puck drops and the game is on. Your head is down. You are oblivious. You are letting shots get into the net. You are in a different land. You get tossed around as a frustrated defenseman tries to skate into your spot to try to save some shots. But you are in the way, and he too is unsuccessful. You look up and notice that your team is shocked and disappointed with your performance. The crowd is chanting “Sieve. Sieve.” You think to yourself, “At least I showed up. What are they so upset about?”

Just showing up isn’t good enough for hockey and it’s not good enough for a tradeshow. Sitting at your booth, talking on your cell phone, checking your email, recovering from the previous night’s wild extravaganza, and waiting for people to come by is equivalent to pulling up a chair on the rink in the middle of a hockey game.

It’s as simple as this: if you’ve made the decision to exhibit at a tradeshow, then give it all you’ve got.

1. Play full-out!

Put away your Blackberries and your cell phones and whatever other cool gadgets you have – you are there to be with your target market so be with them. Do not eat your lunch or your breakfast at your booth. Do not sit at your booth. Do not talk to other booth mates instead of talking to prospects. Do not wait for them to come to you. It’s not like in Field of Dream – just because you built it does not mean they will come – you have to go and get them.

2. Attend key seminars – and participate

Before the show, spend some time going through the conference itinerary and identify seminar sessions relating to your product or service. Attend these sessions. But don’t just attend them quietly – make sure that you are seen and heard. Plan to ask a question that draws attention to your product or service.

3. Look around – who else is there?

Trade shows are great opportunities for strategic alliances – walk the floor, talk to people – find out what they are doing and how. There are lots of companies who are willing and interested in co-branding, referral arrangements, reseller arrangements, product integrations, marketing trades, etc….

4. Find out who you are talking to

Don’t just pitch. Ask questions first and find out who you are talking to and what their challenges are with respect to the area that your product or service addresses.

5. Close deals

The biggest mistake that I see vendors make is that they spend hours and hours talking about their product or service with prospects and then just let them walk away. Do not be afraid to ask for the sale; and ask for it over and over again if you have to.

6. Work after hours

At a tradeshow, you are always on – there is no rest. You are selling from the moment you reach the airplane to the moment you get into the cab to go back home. There are all kinds of social events at all tradeshows – go to them all. Wake up early and have breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, coffee meetings, cocktail meetings, dinner meetings, and after-dinner meetings. Fill up your schedule. Do not go to your room – stay on the ice and play the game.

The bottom line is this – the single most significant aspect of your success at any event is your decision to be in the game and play full-out. You have to decide that this is the Stanley Cup and you are not letting a single goal go by you. If this is your attitude walking into the game, your likelihood of success is dramatically higher.

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