If you’re a B2B solopreneur or small business owner looking to expand your services or products in your local market, networking at business expos can boost your visibility. Expos put you face to face with leaders in the business community. They can lead to new opportunities and give you a platform for strengthening existing relationships.
While exhibiting at an expo obviously generates exposure, it also costs money. Sometimes a good bit of it. But you don’t have to rent a space and man a booth for hours and hours to benefit from an expo. By simply making the rounds as an expo visitor, you can reap the rewards.
So why do many people think they’re a waste of their time? Many view expos as a place to pick up free pens, toss their names into fishbowls to enter drawings, and, if they’re lucky, bump into a few familiar faces in the process.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little preparation and light planning, you can make your rounds on the expo floor count.
How Can You Make The Most Of Your Time At A Biz Expo?
Bring your best business cards.
A lot of expos ask for a biz card as your “admission fee,” so you don’t want to forget yours. As expo season rolls around, the time is right for reviewing and—if needed—updating your business cards. Have they got an old logo? Has your email changed?
I must admit I’ve messed up on this matter this year. With the Lancaster Chamber Business Expo just two days away, I still have my old business cards, which don’t display my logo. Yep. My bad! What I’m doing in the interest of time is getting some fast and furious one-sided cards printed at Staples so at least my logo and essentials (website, phone number, email address, and social media channels) are front and center. Thankfully, I’ve got some time before the next local expo to get my act together and secure two-sided cards with more meat to them.
Bring a buddy.
Personally, I enjoy mixing, mingling, and chatting on the expo floor. Some people find the experience painful. And even though I love it, it’s still more pleasant when I’ve got someone to walk around with. I know one of my clients isn’t particularly fond of these types of events, so for the past two years, I’ve invited him to meet me at the Lancaster expo. Besides making it more tolerable for him, it’s more fun for me and gives me an opportunity to show my appreciation of working with him.
When you enter a sea of 200+ exhibitors showcasing their wares, you can get paralyzed by not knowing where to begin. Rather than wandering aimlessly, take some time a few days before the event to print a map of the expo floor plan. (Most organizers will have that available on their websites, along with a list of the exhibitors.) After reviewing the list of exhibitors and their booth numbers, either highlight or circle the booths of exhibitors you want to introduce yourself to or visit with. Assuming you won’t have hours on end to spend at the event, this will ensure you make the most of your time and ensure you don’t miss any VIPs.
Make connections ahead of time.
After you’ve made note of the particular exhibitors you want to spend some time with, proactively connect with them on social media before the event. The people manning the booths could be the same people manning their social media accounts. Regardless, if you’ve never introduced yourself before, it provides a warm introduction and demonstrates interest when you can say, “Nice to meet you, I really enjoy your company updates on Facebook and Twitter.”
Here’s how I go about the logistics of making those connections:
- I go to the organizer’s website to view the online list of exhibitors.
- I open a browser tab (see image) for each of my social networks (in my case, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook).
- For each company I want to connect with, I search in each network/tab to see if their company has a presence.
- If they do, I follow, circle, or like their page.
Yes, this can take some time depending how many exhibitors you want to connect with, but you don’t have to do it all in one fell swoop. Carve out 10 or 15 minutes over a few days and you’ll be in good shape.
Like them or loathe them, visiting local expos holds the potential to raise awareness of your offerings, build your network, and open the door to referrals and new business. They are what you make of them, so make them matter.
Over to you! How do you get the most from your time spent at the business expos near you?
By Dawn Mentzer (a.k.a. The Insatiable Solopreneur™)
Handshake image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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