At the heart of your industry
Attending trade events is something that a lot of people do grudgingly or, in extreme cases, not at all. There’s something quite different about the British approach and the European approach however — something I have noticed through attending dozens of events over the last seven years on both sides of the channel (and indeed the Atlantic).
Some people (more true of the Brits I’m afraid) tend to see the tradeshow as an unwelcome but necessary break in the routine, something that is useful but should be undertaken as quickly as humanly possible so as to ‘beat the traffic’ on the way home. How sad. For starters, if you’re in Britain beating the traffic is a least-worst case scenario — so don’t bother, you’ll only end up getting stressed. Leave when you’re finished. If that means you’re last out of the hall so be it, if it means leaving at 2pm and paying your own parking… well OK, but is there really nothing you could learn in the extra hours? In Europe people tend to come earlier, stay longer and make more of the opportunities — admittedly this goes for the exhibitors too, who tend to use the events as a social as well as business opportunity.
Also, if you'tr not commited to it the day can be a real drag. I know this. So, in order to make the most it should be treated like an opportunity to build some relationships for your company but also for yourself. Tradeshows are a brilliant opportunity for serendipity. If you’ve been in the aisles for more that three minutes and you’re not on your way to something specific, stop off at the closest stand to you and swap cards / start a conversation / ask a question. If you’re talking to the marketing manager or an applications engineer they will be a) happy to talk to you, b) full of knowledge that you can use.
If you’re unfamiliar with the company I suggest a simple: ‘What is it you do?’, or ‘What are you exhibiting?’. It sounds corny, and you may feel a prat doing it, but it’s one of the best ways to learn because you don’t know what might come out of the conversation. If you assume you know, then asking and finding you were right will do no harm at all. If you assume you know, and are proven wrong, you have learned something and that’s always nice. If you don’t know, you have absolutely nothing to lose by finding out and you may start a relationship that becomes something of great value to you or your business.
In short I see way too many people trudging up and down the aisles looking at their watches or emailing on their Blackberrys. While being constantly connected to colleagues has its benefits, sometimes it’s good to put the phone away, lift your weary head and talk face-to-face with someone you’ve never met before. You have nothing to lose!