Expos are a great way to connect to resources for your career or business. But just how do you make the most of networking at an expo?
Here are some tips to make the most of networking at an expo:
Think about what types of resources you need most. This will help you to prioritize the types of exhibitors you visit and the information you pick up. For example, if your main goal for attending is to find general business guidance, make a point of visiting tables for business coaches, consultants and organizations like SCORE or the US Small Business Administration first.
As soon as you register for an expo, schedule time on your calendar to go through the materials and information you’ll collect (preferably within 24 hours while the information is still fresh in your mind). Also dedicate time for following up with the top contacts you made at the Expo to learn more about their resources.
At the Expo, review the list of exhibitors and be selective in the ones you’ll visit right away. If you find yourself with enough time and energy, you can always visit the other tables after you visit the ones that are most useful for you.
Remember that the exhibitors are there to be resources for YOU. They’ve invested time, energy and money to be represented at the event. Be respectful and make a great impression by learning what they are offering vs trying to promote yourself or your business to them. You’ll make the best impression by being gracious and allowing the exhibitors time to meet with the other attendees at the event. If you meet an exhibitor who initiates interest in learning more about what you offer, be succinct and let them know you can send them the information they requested following the event. LinkedIn is another good way to stay connected with the resources you meet. To help you stand out among all of their connection requests, be sure to include a note reminding them where you met and a personalized note about why you’d like to connect on LinkedIn.
Prepare your intro so the exhibitors share their most relevant information with you. Most exhibitors have a wealth of information they could share with you but not all of it will be a fit for you. It can be helpful to them if you say just a little bit about yourself so they can share the best information with you. For example, “Hello, I work in X field and am currently looking to expand my leadership capabilities. For someone in my position, what would you most like me to know about your resources?”
After the event, go through the items and information you’ve collected. Separate into these piles: 1) Information/resources/connections that are of topmost interest to you (put a note to yourself in the upper right hand corner of when you will read or take action). 2) Information that you need time to think through (still put a note in corner to revisit later, perhaps with the question you need answered before you can decide whether your are interested) 3) Avoid clutter. Information you received that you aren’t interested in can go straight into the recycling.Next, be sure to go through and read and/or take action on the information/resources and to follow up with the connections that are of most interest to you.Reflect on your Expo experience. What did you like about the Expo you attended? What did you learn? Did you make the types of connections you’d wanted to make? How would you change your approach the next time you attend and Expo (e.g. arrive early, attend with a colleague, have questions in mind for the exhibitors…). This will help you determine what types of expos you attend in the future and how to make the most of your experience.
Apply these simple tips and make the most of your networking at an Expo.