Conference Booth Networking For Vendors: How To Standout From The Sea Of Other Booths

trade show tips for exhibitors and vendor booths at conferences

Conference Booth Networking For Vendors

You’ve seen it time and time again at conference after conference. The glorious expo hall, aka sea of SaaS vendor booths. Some are crushing, while others are sitting around wishing they had more people stopping for demos and chatter. This guide will explain how to stand out from the noise and get some real achievable ROI for your company’s booth investment.

Conferences are growing in importance within the business landscape in helping companies grow their brand awareness and engage with prospects. As such, a growing number of leaders in marketing are investing in booths and sponsorships for various conferences relevant to their particular businesses and industry.

Once such an investment has been made, the booth must be adequately staffed. The team must have a cohesive strategy to engage with attendees so that the company can achieve the greatest possible ROI for that conference. To do so, however, is not so straightforward and can be quite challenging since many other vendors are often prying for the attention of the same prospective buyers.

Therefore if you’ve been tapped on as one of the trusted agents of your enterprise to go to such a conference as the ambassador of your company, what are some ways you can stand out from the crowd and make the most of your time there? That’s exactly what we’re here to discuss.

Here are some best practices you can follow to maximize your chances of developing a positive relationship with a conference attendee and ultimately growing your company’s pipeline, which is what your executive team will expect from such an investment.

how to impress at trade shows

1) Smile

Think about it. Who would ever want to approach someone with an unpleasant frown at a booth? If it’s abhorrently apparent to others that the staffer doesn’t want to be there, they can safely assume their conversation with that individual will be lackluster at best.

The power of the smile, especially at conferences, cannot be understated. Smiles are contagious and can attract others. Smiling also signals to others that they are welcome to come and speak to you. It may seem like body language basics, but it works!

Best of all, it allows for the interaction to get a kick start on the right note, given that a smile will often be reciprocated, leaving your conversational counterpart to think subconsciously the exchange is going well. Of course, the rest of your conversation must continue to engage and excite the prospect, but this is a great way to get the ball rolling.

2) Act as a guide

This might be the best networking tip of them all.

Though you are not an employee of the conference, it may behoove you to try and match the knowledge of their staff. The reason is that if you can have a solid understanding of locations and schedules, you can act as a guide for those attending the conference. At the very least, we would advise you to try and obtain a map or schedule of the forum that you can reference for this purpose.

This can be a fantastic ice breaker to start a conversation and will create an opportunity for an immediately positive interaction since you’re offering assistance. For example, if you see someone with a lost look while you’re staffing your booth, you can directly walk forward confidently and ask if there’s anything you can do to assist them.

Once you’ve been able to help that individual, you can parlay the conversation so that you relate things to your company’s product or services. It’s highly possible that individual could be a prospective buyer or know someone who might be.

Another possibility is that the individual may be late to a session and speed off quickly after your little interaction but don’t worry, as your show of goodwill won’t be for naught. There’s still the possibility that you may run into that individual again later in the conference. Once an acquaintanceship has been established, it should be much easier to approach the individual later. Don’t let them leave without taking your business card, which is a perfect segue for our next point.

how to stand out trade show

3) Bring business cards and company swag

It’s safe to say that a booth without swag is at a significant disadvantage at these conferences. Though it may seem a bit materialistic, many conference attendees will feel inclined to engage with booth staffers to get free swag.

Though the seemingly frivolous distribution of items will often not lead to a lot of closed business, it can do a great deal for a company in terms of brand awareness. This is even truer the more unique that particular giveaway item is.

For example, we gave away branded fidget spinners as swag during one particular conference I had attended previously in the security space. In following up with one of our target prospects, he informed me that the timing for our services wasn’t quite right but that we’d be the first vendor he would call should circumstances change because he found our swag particularly unique. He had always wanted to get a fidget spinner as an office toy but didn’t want to go out of his way to buy one himself.

I’ve also seen this in action firsthand. Sumologic must have, at one point, distributed stress balls designed to look like a cartoon sumo character because we had quite a few lying around our offices. During one of our happy hours, a colleague happened to cap his beer glass with this sumo character which sparked a conversation about the hilarity of the item. What followed suit was a further discussion about the company and its ongoing business.

The need for business cards should go without saying, as it’s such a standard practice people will almost expect to be handed a business card at a conference. They won’t even bat an eye as to why it’s being given to them, and it only benefits you as a vendor to hand them out. The more items prospects have to remember you by, the more likely you’ll be the first to come to mind as a solution for a relevant problem in the future.

4) Add people on LinkedIn

Whenever you interact with someone at a conference, it would be wise to add them on LinkedIn. As mentioned earlier, the more items someone has to remember you by, the more likely you’ll be to come to mind. This carries valid in the digital realm as well.

If they are a prospective buyer, it will allow you to keep in touch more easily. But, even if they’re not, there’s a chance that someone in their network may be, so the next time you publish content, it only increases the chances it reaches the right people in your space.

You can, of course, also try and connect with these individuals on other forms of social media, such as Twitter and the like. Still, more often than not, people view other platforms as a hub for their connections, not professional ones. So unless you could connect with that individual personally, it might seem out of place to try and connect with them on any other platform. As such, we recommend, for the most part, you stick with LinkedIn.

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5) Ask about others first

Creating a memorable interaction can be very difficult at conferences, given the sheer volume of interactions attendees will have. One way you can give yourself an edge in trying to stand out is to first ask about others. It also works excellently as an ice-breaker since people often enjoy talking about themselves.

Many other staffers, especially the more inexperienced ones, will often start a conversation with prospects jumping straight into who they are and what their company can offer, knowing very little about the person they’re talking to. Like on a cold call, it’s hard to find value propositions around your product or services that a prospect can relate to unless you understand their role and responsibilities.

Therefore you should use this as an opportunity to make a little discovery. It will help transition the conversation to your company much easier and more relatable. Moreover, since the law of reciprocity naturally binds humans, you won’t even have to segue the conversation yourself. Since you have gone out of your way to ask about the person you’re speaking to, that individual will likely, in turn, ask you the same, which would be your cue to take the knowledge you just gathered and pitch your product or services in a manner that would be most relevant.

Conferences can be hectic for many with so many things going on at any given time, but ultimately the goal for any organization in making the investment to attend or sponsor these events is to get in front of the right people and grow their business.

Hopefully, these tips can help you stand out from the crowd and do just that. So now go out there and, as always, make it rain!