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Get the Most Out of Your Next Trade Show or Business Conference

As GlowHat prepares for the upcoming Aprimo Marketing Summit 2012, we wanted to share some tips to help other attendees and sponsors get the most out of this year's conference. Depending on your purpose for attending this particular event, your expectations may vary.

When you make the decision to attend a business conference or a trade show, you should have some idea of what they are looking to get out of it. Some of you may be looking to have questions answered, optimize certain skills or meet your online connections in person, and others of you may just be looking to network, or gain new customers (ie. MAKE MONEY).

If you just read the introduction above, and found yourself questioning your own purpose for attending such an event, then it's time to stop for a few minutes and ask yourself, “what am I looking to accomplish during my time there?” If you're just attending the event, your answer may be quite different than someone (or some company) that is sponsoring the event and setting up a booth. Write down some objectives, 3 to 5 should be good to start with, as sometimes your objectives can change while you're there, or new ones can be added. Be sure to review your goals every morning, and then follow up on them when the day is over.

Here are a few tips from GlowHat to help you get the most out of the Aprimo Marketing Summit, or whatever your next business event might be, and we look forward to meeting you out on the floor!


Attendees:

-Be Social.

If you are just looking to take a break from the rat race, escape to Las Vegas for a few days, and learn a little from the gurus in your area of interest, then try connecting with people before the event. Social media outlets are a great place to find others with the same interests that may also be attending the conference. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter (find the Twitter hashtag for the event, #AMS12 for example), Pinterest, and others are a great way to connect, discuss and plan to meet up. Many people are traveling to trade shows or conferences in cities other than their own, and occasionally by themselves or with one other person. You can establish long-term relationships with those that share similar interests.

-Have a Plan

This may sound like goal-setting, but it's not. Having a plan is knowing the schedule of the event. Conferences and trade shows can overwhelm you with information. Do some research beforehand…know who the speakers are, as well as where and when they are speaking. Prioritize, and make a list of what you cannot miss out on. Also be sure to include “time-fillers”, and of course, frequent breaks and meals. Conferences can be very taxing on you, both mentally and physically, so it's important to stay as close to your normal eating and exercising routine as possible. Most hotels have a fitness center or spa, so be sure to make good use of them.

-Experience It

As noted above, conferences can be overwhelming…and it can be fun to take pictures, share them on social media, and tell everyone where you are, what you've seen and how great everything is. However, you also need to take time to try to take everything in. Put down the phone, stop blogging, tweeting and posting things to Facebook, and be sure to look and listen. When you're in a class or seminar, it can be very easy to just keep your head buried in your notepad, scribbling down everything the professor or speaker is saying. At the end of it all, you go home with a mountain of (mostly illegible) notes, and have to decipher and remember what they were talking about. This same thing tends to happen at a conference, so if you spend time meeting people, listening to speakers, and absorbing the key things that are going on around you, you'll return home with a lot more than just pages of text.

-Save Some Room

The purpose of conferences and trade shows is to provide information, marketing materials, and MORE information. In other words, chances are good that you're going to leave with more than you came with. It's important to plan ahead and make sure you leave some space in your suitcase before arriving. Another option is to pick up a few Priority Mail Flat Rate envelopes or boxes, along with some prepaid stamps, in case you want to mail some things back to yourself. It can be cheaper and easier than hauling it back on the plane.


Sponsors:

-Bring Your Business

Chances are, you are going to be traveling great distances to get to the conference, so make sure you bring everything you need (and think you MIGHT need) to accomplish your goals. This means business cards, brochures, hand-outs, banners for the booth and even the small day-to-day items that you may not think about, like staples, note pads, pens and pencils, paper clips, a calculator…you get the idea. Make a list, and come overprepared if you have to.

-The Law of Attraction

When people go to a conference, they want to learn and have fun. Your job is to want them to learn and have fun with YOU. Try to stand out…in a good way. This doesn't mean neon signs or bells n' whistles. You can stand out by how you dress, your conduct, and overall charisma. Dress appropriately for the event, and for your business. If you're representing a business at a show, don't be boring and unengaging. Potential clients and regular attendees are not going to spend their time with self-centered people that are not happy to be there. Positive attracts positive.

-Network

If you are representing a business at a conference or trade show, this could very well be number one on your list of reasons for being there in the first place. These events are great opportunities to see and be seen. One really good long-term customer can be the difference between making it a good show to making it a great show. No business is ever well-known right from the beginning. Every company out there was a “lesser known” company at one time, and it's by taking advantage of networking opportunities that they got to where they are today. Talking with people, offering leads, seeking out leads, and the occasional “schmoozing” are great ways to network. Be memorable to them by listening to what they have to say, but make sure you offer something to the discussion as well. Wearing clothes that have pockets will allow you to carry your business cards around with you, and a separate pocket will allow you to accept other's cards. Just make sure you know which pocket is which! However, technological advances have made it easier to collect contact information. Creating QR Codes, or downloading mobile apps to your smartphone, like the “bump” app, allow for a quick, easy and organized way of exchanging pertinent information. Having a Facebook or LinkedIn account, or a Twitter handle are also common for sharing information and connecting with others.

-Be Friendly

This goes for both attendees, as well as sponsors. In today's world, people have more options than ever when it comes to deciding who they are going to do business with, so customer service and first impressions go a long way! You never know when you're sitting next to your next sales lead, a professional blogger, or your next business partner.

-Stay Inspired. Get Things Done

When you leave a conference, one of two things is going to happen. Either you're going to be extremely motivated to set new goals, try new strategies and reach new heights after spending several days mingling and learning with your piers…or the exact opposite is going to happen, and you're going to leave completely exhausted, tired of talking about your business, and checking your calendar to see when you can plan your next vacation to get away from it all. Well either way, these events should truly motivate you, because you should walk away from there having learned more about the industry, more about your clients, and most importantly, more about your competitors. Use this knowledge to stay inspired and make things happen for you. Put off that vacation for a bit, and do what you said you would do.

Do you have other tips or lessons that you've learned from attending conferences or trade shows? Feel free to share your ideas below.

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Stijn Amundsen is the Founder and Principle at GlowHat of Scottsdale Arizona. He enjoys sharing his passion for internet marketing and helping others reach their true potential in business and life. Stijn has been helping clients market high performance web sites for over 10 years, generating millions of dollars of business through high ROI strategies.

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