See and Be Seen – 5 Ways to “Make It Work” at Industry Events

by Katie Creaser on November 24, 2009

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timgunnTip of the hat to Katie Safrey for this timely guest post.

So maybe your company has decided to sponsor a few industry-related events this quarter, and you are the lucky soul that’s been selected to man the 6 foot table.  Or maybe you’re a small business owner that’s trying to drum up business by networking at some local conferences.  Either way, you have a choice.  You could look at this as an opportunity to sit all day and speak when spoken to, or you could view it as a proactive opportunity to meet new people, expand your network, and sell your products/services.

It’s no secret that face-to-face interaction is a great way to ‘sell’ your product or service, and industry events are a great platform for lead generation.  But, like any other marketing initiative, you need a concrete plan to be a success.

Over the years, I’ve been on all sides of the sponsorship table (as an attendee, an event-planner and a sponsor), and I’ve picked up the following tips to, in the words of Tim Gunn, “make it work”:

1. Create a Master Plan – Make sure that you sit down at least 3 weeks (or more, depending on the scope of the sponsorship/size of the event) and devise a plan for your company’s presence.  Who is attending?  What are you bringing?  What is the schedule?  Give assignments, map out deadlines and create a checklist.  Three days before the event, sit down with your team and make sure that everything is accounted for.

2. Give It Away Now – Don’t event think about attending an event without your business card.  If you’re going to have a marketing table, make sure that you give yourself enough time to develop unique/creative handouts and giveaways that are tailored to the event’s audience.  Generic handouts get thrown away or forgotten, so take the extra time to create compelling collateral.

3. Send the Right People – Not everyone is a networker, and we’re not all great at sales.  Evaluate your team and send people who are up to the task.  You’ll want to make sure that the people representing your brand are well-versed in your company’s messaging, and understand the types of people that they’ll be talking to.  Outgoing, enthusiastic and talkative employees are usually great for manning the table and walking the event-floor.

4. Network, Network, Network – Don’t wait for people to approach you – get out there and meet the crowd!  If possible, request the attendee list in advance and highlight the people that you’re hoping to meet, once you’re on-site ask the event organizer to introduce you.  Remember, there is no chain attaching you to the marketing table; walk the floor with your business cards and strike-up conversations.

5. Follow-up, Stat – Follow-up with the people you’ve met the day after the event if you were an attendee that collected business cards and within the week if you were an event sponsor and have a larger list to tackle.  A simple, personalized note saying ‘thank you’ or ‘nice to meet you’ is perfect.  If possible, include an offer or giveaway to transform your conversation into a lead.

As cheesy as it may sound, preparation, planning and good attitude are your best tools for success – now, get out there and work it!

PS – I’d love to hear your tips too, leave them in the comments below and I’ll tweet the best ones.

–Katie Safrey

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Keith Green 12.17.09 at 12:44 pm

Hi Katie-
Great blog entry, you offer some great insight and suggestions. I’d like to add one to the mix:

Stand Out from the Crowd. If your budget and space allow (or even if they don’t) find a creative way for your table, booth or area to look and feel different. This is especially true at conferences or trade shows where all the booths can look the same and your mind gets a bit numb walking up and down the aisles.

Some specific suggestions include showing a video of your services, spending the extra money on a unique display that people will remember or even utilizing offbeat colors for simple items like your table skirt.

Regarding give-aways, stay top of mind with current trends. At a recent conference I attended, the exhibitor next to us had a giant bottle of hand sanitizer. With most people being concerned about spreading germs and getting the flu, I thought that was a very clever way to engage people and start a conversation!

Katie Safrey 12.18.09 at 11:05 am

Thanks for adding on to this post Keith – great tips!

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