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WORKING THE CONFERENCE FOR ALL IT'S WORTH VS. MERELY EXHIBITING

Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Dan Callahan

I am back from the DoDIIS Conference in lovely downtown Detroit… I noticed an eerie lack of hustle and bustle in the downtown district, in spite of the conference’s success.  Cool architecture kept my interest as well as some inviting eating establishments.

 

Here are my Must Do Items and “Must Not Do” for these kind of conferences:

 

1.  Do Not send exhibitors only to a conference where the sessions are fully available for only the price of a attendee ticket.  The breakout sessions is where a lot of BD action can be accomplished!

 

2.  Do Not attend without having set targets in mind.  The more calculated you can be, the better your outcome will be.  For instance, even when you don’t know the name of the persons you’re trying to connect with, your goal may be to learn their name, and see if their attending.  Then hunt them down at or after the show.

 

3.  Listen carefully for leads in the breakout sessions.  I was sitting one session, and two persons raised their hand to ask questions.  Since I was only two or three seats away, it was easy for me to silently hand both persons my card and suggest we talk later!  Not a bad way to get a lead or two, let along the content of the session.

 

4.  Have a team regroup (even a small one) half-way through the conference; we did this and it proved to be valuable, making the second half better than normal.   (Ask anyone… if you’re not careful, the last day can be a waste of time… which is a shame).

 

5.  Don’t be afraid to partner!  This was one of our primary goals and because our value proposition was tailored for this, we were well received. 

 

6.  Opinion:  I always sit up front unless I have slipped into the session late.  This assures that I make eye contact with speakers and am the first one to put a card in their hand and open up a conversation.  Guess who else sits near the front… the other real executives that are attending.

 

7.  Build relationship with other complementary vendors and don’t be afraid to trade names of clients.  Sales guys like to brag about who they know. And everyone knows someone interesting…right?

 

8.  I dress like the client with whom I expect to be speaking.  In most cases, this is at least a sport coat, and in many cases, this is a suit.  The IC managers tend to be very conservative.  If you look like a quota carrying, territory focused vendor, you’ll be taken less seriously than a person dressed like a business executive.  I try not to get religious about this, because there can be so many exceptions, but generally, I don’t wear logo shirts.  Why?  Because how many true business executives do you see wearing logo shirts?  I am open to discussion, but this is where I fall on this issue.  Tell me what you think!

 

This list is only the beginning… but it’s a great start to maximizing your trade show and conference ROI.  What have I left out?