Make the Most of Your Tradeshow: Part One

allison imre
Allison Imre, iHeartMedia Sarasota

At a recent Shumaker Chamber University, Allison Imre presented valuable information on trade shows at “Make the Most of Your Tradeshow.” Imre is the Senior Account Manager of iHeartMedia Sarasota. With 245 million monthly listeners in the U.S., iHeartMedia has the largest reach of any radio or television outlet in America. The company owns and operates 858 broadcast radio stations, serving more than 150 markets throughout the U.S.

Imre is no stranger to trade shows. Her experience with trade shows started at her previous position with the Kansas City Royals and has expanded since she joined iHeartMedia Sarasota.

If you’re like Imre, you’ve been to your fair share of trade shows. In fact, everyone in our audience raised their hands when asked if they’ve attended one before. And their experiences were mixed. For some, the trade show wasn’t worth their time or investment and for others there was success in meeting new people, closing deals and setting appointments. By opening the trade show conversation, Imre offered some of the best tools, tips and tricks to use when attending or exhibiting at a trade show.

With The Chamber’s End of the Summer Bash Prime Time exhibit quickly approaching, let’s start with what we learned to do as a trade show attendee.

Photo courtesy of Jake Bibler of Mavella Photography.

Have a Game Plan.
There are many reasons to attend a trade show. Are you looking for a job? Are you starting a business? Are you a business owner looking for specific services? Think of your ultimate end goal and reasoning behind attending so that you can come up with a solid game plan.

Get a List.
Now that you have your game plan, take the initiative to get a site map or list of who will be there. Use this as a guide of who you want to visit and more specifically who you want to start a conversation with during your visit. As Imre suggested, learn the names of the decision makers. And while the decision maker might not be at the show, you will show initiative by asking about them at the booth and getting contact information to follow up with.

Act the Part.
Make a good first impression at the event because you never know who you could meet. Dress like a CEO and wear your smile! Along with your smile, a name tag is another very important accessory. Be sure to wear it on your right so that when you shake hands, your name is clearly visible.

Avoid the Clutter.
Could you imagine handing a very new and important client the wrong business card? You’ll likely be collecting a lot of collateral and business cards, so do your best to keep them organized. Gentlemen, keep your cards in one pocket and the cards you collect in the other. Ladies, keep a business card holder with you. The cards in the front are yours and the ones in the back are theirs.

Start the Conversation.
When you’re at the event, follow your site map, but also be observant of other exhibitors that you might want to start a conversation with. When you approach a booth, don’t be afraid to ask them questions and engage with them. Let them tell their story and then have your elevator speech ready to keep that conversation going.

Don’t be afraid to walk away.
If the conversation isn’t going as planned or if you feel like you’re not getting out of it what you need, don’t be afraid to politely dismiss yourself. Find the happy medium between engaging with the booth and being overly assertive. You don’t want to hand over your card and walk away, but you should also avoid a 30 minute conversation that may be hindering them from talking to other clients. That’s where the follow up comes in.

Follow up.
Following up is the best way to show your initiative and reiterate your conversation with a new contact. Did you discuss setting up a meeting? Did they provide you with the name or contact of the decision maker? No matter who you are following up with, make sure they feel important. An email is ok, a phone call is nice, but a handwritten note is much better.

You ultimately should leave a trade show with new connections. Whether you are closing a deal, setting up a meeting or exploring new market trends, attending a trade show can turn into good business. Imre said it herself, “Every connection is a good connection.”

Looking for a good trade show to attend? Turn to your local newspaper, business associations, universities or a chamber of commerce. Imre recommends that you look by trade, i.e. boat shows, home shows or senior expos.

Or, check out The Chamber’s upcoming Prime Time exhibit on August 19 at the Sahib Shrine center or our annual Chamber Expo, the largest business after hours in the area, hosted with the Manatee Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, November 5 at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.

This is part one of two posts. Stayed tuned for part two to learn about exhibiting at a trade show.

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