It’s Show Time! 10 Ways to be the Star of the Nightclub & Bar Show
The Big Show is only a couple of months away! I’ve been involved in the expo world since I was 23, when I was sent off to “man” a booth for my employer at the time with no clue of what to do when I arrived in LA. But I figured it out: I spoke to hundreds of people, made lots of sales, and came home exhausted but proud and profitable. Fast-forward to my last corporate job: I ran the marketing function for the world’s largest show organizer and attended hundreds of shows across 40 industries. When I started my own business in 2003, I participated in shows as an exhibitor, attendee, speaker, and consultant to exhibitors.
Decades later, one thing holds true – you can profit from trade shows. Some of my biggest business deals have resulted from my time at shows. Now that we all have the superpowers of digital media at our fingertips, building relationships and business is even easier.
Three out of every five show attendees have buying influence, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR). But a mere 45% of attendees go to only one exhibition per year. Make sure you make the Big Show count!
Here are 10 time-tested tips for getting the most out of your experience, which I learned and honed personally with each visit to the Nightclub & Bar Show:
Before You Go:
Start planning early; early as in right now. In addition to making arrangements for travel and housing (to get the best deals), set very specific goals for what you want to get out of the show: what types of products you’re looking for, who you’d like to meet, what you’d like to learn.
Bring a team. You can’t be everywhere at once. Whether you’re exhibiting or attending, have enough people along and ensure that everyone has a role. Inviting a rock star bartender or junior staff person to a show is a great “perk.”
Connect in advance. Spend an hour or so going through the show website and conference program and use LinkedIn and Facebook to build virtual relationships with people before the show. If you’re attending conference sessions, reach out to speakers and let them know what you’d like to learn. As a speaker, I find that extremely valuable as I’m putting my materials together.
Make time for follow-up. This may sound extremely compulsive, but I always block out a few hours after the show so that I can follow up on leads and connect with people I met at the show. Once you get back, you’ll have lots to do after having been out of town. Planning in advance is the only way to make sure you leverage your great new connections.
At the Show:
Don’t be shy. Whether you’re on booth duty or attending after-hours events, introduce yourself to new people. You can make new business contacts sitting in conference sessions, at parties, and even in elevators. Speaking of parties, watch your own spirits consumption if you want to make a good first impression.
Capture the moments. Utilize social media to market your brand or business while you’re at the Show. Be sure to post pictures of yourself throughout the event on Facebook and Instagram and live tweet from conference sessions. Your customers and fans will be able to share in the moment and see that you’re serious about growing your business and meeting their needs.
Make every moment count, but be spontaneous. Although having a calendar packed full of conference sessions, meetings, and events is terrific, allow yourself an hour or two of down time to just wander the aisles. You never know what you’re going to find or who you might meet.
Ask questions at sessions. Never feel silly raising your hand. Other people at conferences may have the same questions you do, and you’ll inspire others to be bold and speak up. Be sure to state your name and the name of your business before you ask a question; it’s great free brand advertising!
After the Show:
Follow up, follow up, follow up. In addition to sending out emails and adding prospects to your database, connect with key people via social media.
Debrief. Sit down with your team (either at the show or when you get back) to talk about what you learned, what you’d do differently next year, and, most importantly, how you’re going to apply your discoveries and insights to building your business. If you went to the show with a team, divide and conquer. Give each team member specific tasks to follow up on. If you went solo, share your experiences and learning with your team while it’s still fresh in your mind.
Above all, be patient. Sometimes connections and ideas from trade shows can take as long as a year or two to pay back. But, if you follow all 10 tips, you’ll more than make up the cost (time and money) of being in Las Vegas for a few days.