Top Networking Tips for Getting the Most out of your Trade Show Experience

Trade Show Networking Tips

Whether you’re a trade show “newbie” planning your first trade show exhibit or you’re a seasoned vendor, we all get a little stressed sometimes and perhaps a bit shy about networking. Now that you’ve confirmed your booth space, your goal is to maximize your time and networking efforts to meet potential influencers, affiliates, and ultimately, make meaningful business contacts that you can leverage to increase your reach, audience, and business growth.

Does the thought of networking bring on anxious feelings or do you feel a bit stressed about attending and vending at trade shows and meeting new people because you’re a bit shy? We’ve got you covered! Check out the following insider tips on navigating the trade show floor, leveraging trade show parties, and best practices and tips for networking.

Ease into it & start networking prior to the trade show date

You can warm up the networking process by starting early. Don’t wait until you’re at the show to begin networking. Instead, get the attendee list from the trade show organizer and email people you want to meet in advance. (It’s far easier to craft an email than meeting someone for the first time in person!)

This takes the relationship to a whole different level. Instead of walking up to a booth cold, you’ll have the opportunity to introduce yourself as a follow to your initial contact and you’ll have a better chance of forming a stronger, more meaningful and longer lasting connection.

If you have mutual colleagues and customers, you can also create the possibility of arranging a sit down for the three of you for a cup of coffee or tea.

Arrive early

You may be tempted to spend all your time getting ready at your own booth, (or sleeping in!) but you’ll benefit greatly if you arrive early and meet a few folks before the show. People are generally more alert early on and you can take advantage of their full attention and excitement in meeting others pre-show. And if you’ve selected a trade show display solution that is quick and easy to assemble, such as Xylea-Wood’s lightweight slatwall display system that can be set up with virtually no tools in less than 10 minutes, you’ll have plenty of time to walk the floor and meet people before the show!

Talk to the organizers

The people organizing the party are “in the know” on who is there and can be a great resource for you. Remember, gatekeepers are huge influencers and can be your greatest asset. If you ask them for help, they will be happy to provide you attendee lists, media lists, and more often than not, help with making connections at the show.

Navigate the trade show like a “pro”

Once you’ve spotted someone you’d like to meet, position yourself nearby and wait for an opening to introduce yourself. Be mindful not to interrupt an ongoing conversation and be sure to take a real interest in the person you’re approaching and what their business/service/product  is about. The best way to overcome shyness and to take yourself “out of yourself,” and your timidness, so to speak, is to take a genuine interest in others and LISTEN. This applies to those of you who are not shy; active listening when you are networking is a great way to stand out from others who are there to promote themselves and their products and services without considering all the possibilities and value that they can bring to you (if you listen long enough to understand their business and needs) as well as the real value you can bring to them.

Best practices for networking

Form mutually beneficial, win-win relationships. Ask a new contact not what they can do for you; rather, seek out people you can help! It’s not only about finding people who can help you. It’s about finding people you can help. One of the best ways to come out of your shell is to talk about what you are passionate about and helping others is a great way to form a bond. So be sure to share a helpful tip, industry insight, or your expertise.

Focus on quality, not quantity. Remember that it’s not a race to meet everyone in the room. Instead, set goals for who you want to meet, connections you want to make, and focus on making real connections, really listening, asking questions, and taking an interest in their business and not in just what you can get from them. Instead, again, think on how you can help them and what value you can bring them.

Be intentional. Setting goals can keep you on track. Map out five people you want to meet at the trade show, as well as five people who could benefit from meeting you and make it happen.

Employ the power of yes. Be mindful that you always want to give your connections something that they can say “yes” to. And remember the law of reciprocity. By being giving, people are more inclined to want to give back, so be generous with your time, advice, or your own connections. Remember, it’s not always about you. When you have a service mind-set, people are drawn to you and want to know you.

Fail forward. Don’t let fears, doubts, and shyness stop you from starting conversations at trade shows. Every conversation doesn’t have to be a polished pitch; it’s okay to stumble a bit. Remember a few great questions to ask, such as “Who’s your favorite speaker so far?” and “What are your goals for the show?”

Small talk, BIG results. Keep it light and let the first impression and encounter be a genuine meeting of people interested in finding out more about each other without any expectations or pressure. Enjoy the small talk; ask open questions and know where you want the conversation to go. Once you start in on small talk, you can lead the conversation in the direction you want and discover ways you can work together in the future and create possibilities to bring value to each other’s businesses.

Just chill. Sometimes you just won’t feel like networking. That’s ok! Stop and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy a few quiet moments of down time and then push forward.

It’s ALL about follow-up!

While the digital revolution has made printed business cards somewhat obsolete, that doesn’t mean you can’t still connect with a digital business card! People tend to save digital information for the future and almost always have their cell phones handy. Add contacts to your phone, follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and put a note in the contact to follow up within 48 hours, follow up within 30 days, and contacts to add to your mailing list, newsletter (be sure to ask for permission to add to email list).

Are you planning your Trade Show Display?

Do you need help planning your Trade Show Display Booth? Xylea® Wood may be the solution you’re looking for! Lightweight and affordable, virtually any trade show display can be designed and built utilizing Xylea® revolutionary slatwall. Call us TODAY for a FREE quote at 909.860.2695 or email us at joe@sfwoodcrafters.com for more information.