Getting the Most From a Trade Show



The conference season is upon us and companies around the world are going to be descending on San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Cologne soon.  Some folks may not know this but there is actual business that goes on at these shows.  I’m serious!  It’s not all just developer rants, free swag, and beer.  I can tell I already lost some of you.

  • Define your show objectives now
  • Tier your targets for meetings
  • Contact those companies
  • Book your meetings wisely

Going to a show to get business done is work, trade shows aren’t a vacation and you need to prepare for them as such.  That’s not saying you can’t have fun, some of your best networking and relationship building is going to be done after the expo closes.  You just can’t show up to those parties completely smashed.  I’ve seen everything from leads passing out to CEO’s coping a feel on their interns.  Don’t be that guy!  Have a drink, be social, but take it all in moderation.

Everyone should be starting to book their meetings in the next two weeks so this is the time to start getting ready.  Sit down and identify your goals from a company and individual standpoint.  Are you going alone to evangelize your business or do you have multiple members of your team that will be there for staff development as well?  Use this time to educate your junior members, don’t have them in meetings where they are adding no value.  Have them on the expo floor demoing the new tools or in the sessions learning about the latest trends in the industry.  Your executives and biz dev types need to be the ones running the meetings.

Once you have your goals and objectives set you should target and identify your meetings.  Use your own network, LinkedIN, or the conference sessions and speaker list to see who is going to be attending this year.  Don’t book “meetings for meetings sake” it wastes your time and those you meet with.  Tier your targets into three groups and start from the top.  That way you know you’ll get the meetings you need and they will be worthwhile.  Once you get an acceptance, schedule that meeting immediately in Outlook or Google (or whatever you use) and make sure the other attendee’s are notified.  So where should you meet?

This is key as it will effect your scheduling.  Not all of your meeting will be at the show itself so you need to be aware of that when you’re booking them.  At GDC, for example, many people will want to meet at the“W” Hotel near the show and it is quite convenient   Because of that it is usually packed with people and I typically avoid trying to do meetings there.  The W is great for networking, but try to find somewhere a little quieter for your meetings.  Nothing is going to get done if you and your attendees spend the entire time saying “Hello” to everyone walking by.  Now if your meetings are near one another, a half hour slot should suffice for an introduction meeting.  Use your own discretion if this is a client or you have specifics to discuss.  Also check your walking times between meetings and make sure you have time to get from one hotel to the show or another hotel.

I’ll deepen this discussion in further posts but in summary:

  • Define your show objectives now
  • Tier your targets for meetings
  • Contact those companies
  • Book your meetings wisely

I’ve been doing this for many years, if you have any questions at all feel free to reach out to me!


So you have identified your targets, booked your meetings, and now you’re getting ready to head to San Francisco.  Guess what?  No matter how well you coordinated it’s all going to go to hell.  Meetings will reschedule, people will blow off the meetings, and somehow the two of you will end up different locations (Pro-tip:  Don’t schedule meetings for “A” Starbucks – there’s a million of them).  Side rant, Starbucks is the worst place in the world to schedule meetings, everyone does it.  It’s going to be loud, crowded and you’ll get nothing accomplished.  It’s like the “W”, only smaller.

Confirmations: Send an email to simply confirm your meeting, sounds simple… few people do it.  I don’t know how many times I’ve had meetings get moved or cancelled at this stage, had I not emailed them to confirm the meeting I’m sure no one would have let me know and that is my time wasted.  Late in the week before the show send an email to each individual you are meeting with.  In the email include the following:

  • Time of the meeting
  • Location of the meeting
  • Picture of yourself (Not that one of you playing beer pong from Facebook)
  • Your mobile number
  • Request their mobile number

Here you’ve confirmed your meeting and you’ve given them the information they need to reach you at the show in the event they need reschedule.  Make sure you get these out in time for people to read them before they leave the office and hit the road.

Packing: You can buy new socks in San Francisco, it’s harder to get business cards.  Make sure you pack a lot of them, if you’re doing your job correctly you’ll run out.  Also make sure you print out your schedule.  Google Calendars and smartphones are awesome, until an entire tradeshow is taxing a wi-fi connection and deep in the bowels of a convention center there is no cell service.  A physical copy will always be ready for you.  I also like to jot down a few key points for each meeting on my schedule, that why if I only end up with a few minutes to chat I can make sure my key points are expressed or questions get answered.

At the Show: Once you are at the show there are three things you should always have on you.  Business Cards, your physical schedule, and a pen.  Hand out cards to everyone you talk to and make sure you jot a note down on the back of any card you receive.  I’ve been doing this for fifteen years now and I STILL get home with that one card that I’m going “Who the hell was this?”.  Take a moment at the end of the day to write yourself a reminder on the back “Met with Adrian – iOS developer”  Easy enough.  Make sure you are picking up any industry and trade magazines.  Some of the national organizations put together brochures and booklets about companies in their country, you can often get good contacts and leads there.

Finally.. be kind to one another.  Introduce people that you know but don’t know one another and when you do so say more than their name.  “Rick, this is Jay, he is a business development consultant.  Jay, Rick is with XYZ company and they just started publishing iOS titles”.  These rule also applies at parties and mixers, don’t be “That guy/girl”.


As the show doors close and you wistfully dream of actually sleeping you still have a good bit of work to do. First off, don’t worry about that cough.  It’s called con-crud and it’ll pass in about a week.  Second off, start and schedule your follow ups.  While you were at the show you should have been grabbing all the business cards you could find and networking your butt off.  Now it’s time to put all that information to work.  Within the first three business days of your return, one week tops, you should have accomplished the following:

  • Entered all the business cards into your CRM (you do have a CRM don’t you?)
  • Connected to all the contacts via LinkedIN
  • Followed up by email or phone with each person from whom you received a card

Following these three simple steps will be a huge help to you in the weeks and months to come.  The notes you jotted on the back of each card will help you remember who was who, that’s why we did that.  Take the contact data and any notes from meetings and enter them into your CRM so you have that information down the road.  If you don’t have a CRM solution don’t worry, I’m going to do a post soon outlining the options and my recommendations.

Next you need to reach out to all those people on LinkedIN.  When you do this, do NOT use the standard LinkedIN blurb.  Take 20 seconds and write a one line note to your potential contact.  It is more personal and it makes a world of difference.  When I get connection requests from people I don’t know on LinkedIN I reject them flatly if they don’t take the time to introduce themselves.

Finally outline any upcoming opportunities and deliverables that may have come from your meeting and follow up with everyone via email.  Let them know you appreciated their time and move the needle a little further in your relationship by taking that next step.

GDC and the other shows we go to are great for networking and getting face time with the people we work with all year long.  By archiving that knowledge and building on it after the show you’re going to set yourself up for a much better batch of results when it’s all said and done.

Have fun at the show everyone, I hope to see you there!

February 6th, 2017
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Building Your Business Development Game Plan for your next Conference

There is a conference just around the corner and everyone is starting to turn their attention to where it’s being held.  Conferences and conventions in general are an effective and exhilarating way to network with people who share your goals, or are willing to pay you to make their goals a reality.  

We have put together a guide that you can follow for these conferences.  It is broken up into 3 main parts, with elements below each part to give it clarity.


Set aside time to prepare for the conference.

  • Research the conference. Understand the size, layout, activities and who will be attending.
  • KE3 is just around the corner and everyone is starting to turn there attention to the LA Convention Center.  Conferences and conventions in general are an effective and exhilarating way to network with people who share your goals, or are willing to pay you to make their goals a reality.  E3 is fantastic for this as all of the industry’s major players will be in town that week.
  • now where you are going and what you are doing. Establish these goals early and consider creating back-up plans in case something goes awry (such as an event is cancelled, or a talk you wanted to see is full).
  • Maximize each trip by seeking secondary opportunities. For example, use EventBrite to look for parties and events that could be good for networking.
  • Research the companies and individuals you are meeting. Know their names and try to find a picture of what they look like, if possible (LinkedIn is a good resource). Get an idea of how their company makes money, then try to anticipate what their needs or pain points will be. Brainstorm ideas for how you could solve their problems.
  • Send confirmation emails for all meetings. Include the location, the time, pictures of the meeting spot if possible, and the best way to get in touch with you (typically a cell phone number). Specify if texting is okay because the convention floor can often be noisy and make voice calls difficult or awkward (“hold on, hold on, okay, I’m outside and can hear you now” is neither a fun nor a professional way to greet a potential customer).
  • Include contact information on your calendar and print out a hard copy. It’s always a great idea to have backup in case your digital devices fail or run out of battery.
  • Test your cell phone reception. Go to the convention site beforehand to test voice calls and connectivity in the areas where you’ll be spending the most time.
  • Consider how much data you will be using on your smartphone. It’s better to pay for extra bandwidth ahead of time rather than racking up a whole day’s worth of overage fees.


While at the conference, your main goal is to acquire information!

  • Network! Don’t be afraid to say hello and introduce yourself. You never know when a casual conversation about that morning’s keynote could turn into a business lead.
  • Hand out your business cards. You’re almost sure to get them in return.
  • Pay attention to where the good parties are. Remember that good does not necessarily mean open bar. Consider what sort of crowd will offer you the most leads. A loud DJ could kill your opportunities for networking if no one can hear you.
  • Pick up conference guides, magazines, and flyers. You can peruse them during down time at the end of the day, or on your flight home.
  • Prioritize forming new contacts and relationships over education. Larger conferences often videotape talks and put them online for viewing after the conference has ended. However, the opportunity to make connections with business partners or new clients has to be done during the conference. The exception to this rule is the conference keynote. Make time to attend or at least find a summary of what was said. Since so many people attend these presentations, it’s easy to strike up a conversation about it later while networking.
  • Reach out for meetings on the ground. You could tweet a general blast that you’re looking for certain types of opportunities, or text a personalized message to a high-priority business lead.
  • Maximize your time but know your limits. You will make a sour impression during a meeting if you’re stumbling over words and bleary eyed from lack of sleep, or constantly checking the time because you overbooked yourself and are already late for your next meeting.
  • Be agile. Have a plan of action if someone cancels or doesn’t show up to a meeting. Use your cloud calendar to move and arrange meetings on the fly.


After the conference, complete these seven steps to bring your business development strategy full circle.

Week One:

  1. Input all your business cards into LinkedIn and your CRM.
  2. Extend invitations to all parties on LinkedIn.
  3. Update your CRM with any new information, such as interests, upcoming RFPs, meeting notes, and information about client objectives and needs.
  4. Immediately follow up on all hot prospects.

Week Two:

  1. Follow up with all remaining contacts from the show.
  2. Move forward on any action items from meetings.
  3. Input all data or knowledge gleaned from the show into your CRM for future reference.

Conferences are some of the few times a year you get to spend face time with your clients and potential partners.  Make sure you dedicate the time to do it right and it will pay big dividends down the road.

January 30th, 2017
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Six Simple Steps to Nailing Your Post-Show Follow Ups


The show is over and you’ve caught up on some of your sleep.  Like many others leaving the conference, you probably feel as if the show went wonderfully and you are on top of the world.  Today we’re going to walk you through how you deal with putting yourself in the best position to do just that.


Step One

Collect your cards and notes from the show.  Go through all of them and sort them into three piles.  You want a set that needs to be followed up on immediately and a stack that can wait a few days.  The first stack should only consist of meetings where you had an immediate next step defined and the partner is waiting on you.  The second stack are the companies that you met with or ran into at the show and the immediate next step hasn’t been defined.  The third pile are all the show guides, company directories, etc that you picked up at the show.  You didn’t meet with these companies (or they would be in the first or second stack) but you now know they exist and you need to enter them into your system.



Step Two

Enter all of your cards and notes, from the first two stacks, into your CRM.  If you don’t have a CRM, you need to get one.  ASAP.  In the worst case you can work from a spreadsheet, but I would highly recommend a true CRM solution.  They aren’t even that expensive anymore.  I’m partial to Contactually and Nutshell, but Sugar, Capsule, and Insightly are also popular options.  Using Evernote’s premium level has a great card scanner you can use to make this go a bit smoother.  They let you pay month to month so I frequently subscribe for months I have conferences to attend to take advantage of the feature.



Step Three

Define the next steps from each card or meeting.  What did you tell the other person you would do when you returned to the office?  Were you going to send them more information, introduce them to someone, send a proposal perhaps?  This is where you need to outline that and the meeting notes in general from the show.



Step Four

Set your follow up reminders.  This is where you’ll need to refer to your earlier stacks.  Your immediately follow ups (the first stack), should be set up for no later than the week after the show.  Schedule your second stack of cards for the second week.  You don’t want to follow up too quickly.  The first day or two back from a show everyone is going to be catching up and their inbox is going to be overflowing.  You don’t want your email to get lost in that shuffle.  Rarely are you going to have a situation where you absolutely HAVE to follow up that next day.  For example, if the show ends on Friday, you should start your follow ups starting on Wednesday, with the urgent ones first.



Step Five

Catch up on the news you missed.  Shows are crazy, you’re seeing a lot and running all over the place. You miss things, it’s just a reality.  I for one didn’t know there was going to be a 4th Rock Band game until I was on the flight home.  Take some time to review the news from the show and add any new companies you may see to your third stack of information.  If a company announced something that you are interested in or that presents an opportunity for you, go ahead and schedule a call or email in your CRM at this point.



Step Six

Enter your third stack.  Now take all those random connections and information you found and put them in your CRM.  If there is something worth checking in on, schedule it now.  Otherwise it could very well fall through the cracks.

Finally… EXECUTE!  I’m a stickler for lists and scheduling.  I make sure all of these points are in my system because frankly it makes things easier and you don’t get overwhelmed.  Take each day post-show one day at a time.  Do what you said you would do and nurture those relationships.

January 27th, 2017