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A lot goes into attending events — money, travel, time away from the office — but if done properly, they can be very successful when forming connections and boosting business. The key is building strong relationships that will prove to be beneficial beyond the event. But depending on the event, you could end up with hundreds or thousands of attendees and only a few days to make those connections.
With so much to do and so little time, check out these tips to get started.
Be the person everyone is talking about. Brush up on your interpersonal skills such as using a firm handshake during greetings and making eye contact throughout conversations. Practice introducing yourself. Take time to get to know people by expressing a genuine interest in them, instead of trying to find out what’s in it for them. Use this time to build connections with people so that you can meet with them later in a more professional setting.
If possible, research people you know are attending the event beforehand. This will help you engage in relevant conversations instead of generic icebreakers. In addition to seeking out specific people, don’t be afraid to approach the person standing alone. You never know what the conversation will hold, and that person will appreciate being included. Remember time is limited, so keep conversations brief. Don’t forget to exchange business cards and contact information to follow up later.
Naturally, when you’re acting as the ambassador of a brand or organization, you’re going to want to be able to answer any questions people might have. Make sure that you (and anyone else who comes with you) have done your research. If you struggle to answer someone’s inquiry, it may sow doubt in your brand’s expertise.
After your conversations, you’ll want to leave people wanting to know more about you—and to do that, you’ll need to prepare something beforehand that inspires that response. Put together information packets about you and what you do. Use binders with your organization’s logo for an extra special touch. Include samples of your work, as well as links and QR codes so people check out your online work, too. Be sure to include your best work to entice recipients to learn more about you. Having information handy will make you look professional and prepared.
Become the person that people are seeking out for conversations by giving a great presentation. This will give you a chance to showcase your work and share insights on your industry. If people enjoy your presentation, they’ll want to catch up with you later or do business with you. Keep the presentation concise by focusing on no more than three tips. This way, you don’t overwhelm your audience and they will be more likely to remember them. You’ll also be able to make sure you are providing in-depth information on the tips. Keep it casual by speaking as if you are having a conversation with your audience.
Lastly, be mindful if you are using a slideshow. Use the slideshow to highlight key points with images, videos and graphs, and don’t read it verbatim to your audience.
Entice people to visit your display by appealing to their senses. There’s nothing more welcoming than the scent of fresh-baked cookies. Set up comfortable chairs to give people a place to put their feet up at while they enjoy their snacks. By making your area the place to be, you’ll increase your chances of making connections and winning people over.
Another option is to make your area the party spot. Play fun music, set up games and offer cocktails. This works well for DJs or musicians who can use this opportunity to showcase their work live.
Be sure to have your information packets and business cards available for people to learn more about you. Try to talk to as many people who stop by as possible to build on establishing a personal connection, too.
In addition to information, give guests something else to remember you by, like a fun promotional product. Depending on your budget, you can give out larger items such as totes or smaller items such as key chains.
Consider wearable items such as hats or t-shirts to make recipients walking advertisements for you and your brand. Alternatively, provide useful items such as chip clips, magnets or rulers. This will extend the shelf life of your items, so people will keep them longer and remember you whenever they use them.
People often prefer to engage with a brand in a truly interactive way; it’s more fun than just standing there listening to a pitch. If you’re selling a product, for instance, instead of just showing them how the product works, give them an opportunity to try it out themselves. Interactive activities can also be a great way to provide your audience with information in a memorable way. Try turning your pitch or presentation into a game, such as a trivia challenge.
Interactive elements work best when they’re directly related to your brand, but even if they’re not, they can be a good way to attract people towards your booth at a trade show or conference. Consider setting up a game console or a guess-the-number-of-marbles challenge to attract a crowd; these can be excellent icebreakers for starting up a more substantial conversation.
If everything goes as planned during an event, you should have gathered a bunch of new contacts—whether they’re potential clients, partners or experts who can help you develop further. Make sure you follow up with those people when the event is over. This reaffirms your interest in what they have to say and helps build the relationship further.
Events can be stressful, especially when there’s a ton of competition for the audience’s attention. It’s a common cliché, but remember to always be yourself; don’t ever do something that goes against your brand or personal values in an effort to pander.
Also, keep in mind that if you can’t find any existing events out there that fit with your brand, you can always create and promote an event of your own.
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