At the end of this week, over 25,000 small business owners from around the UK will be heading to The Business Show at Olympia in London, including me!
I’ve attended every show since 2007. I’ve been there for the full two days, twice a year and have won some of my biggest opportunities by being there. In fact, I was asked to write my first book – Business Networking for Dummies – actually at the show’s Thursday night afterparty. These days, I’m thrilled to be one of the speakers at the show and this year am speaking three times over the two days.
So, whether you’re attending for the first time, or if you’re a regular, here are some tips to help you make the most of your visit:
- Hop onto social media and engage before, during and after the event. The earlier you start engaging the better. You have a huge opportunity to begin the conversation with the people you want to meet, before you even get there. Make sure you follow the hashtag #TBS2016 – as well as adding it to your tweets about the event make sure you engage, like, retweet and reply to the other people on the stream.
- Plan where you going to be and who you’re going to see. It is a BIG show and there will be lots to cram in, if you’re there for an hour or for the whole two days. Take a look at The Business Show website or grab a programme on the way in and work out which exhibitors you want to see and which speakers, seminars and workshops you want to attend.
- Take advantage of the networking opportunities. People often seem to miss the huge networking opportunities which are offered at trade and business shows. There will be plenty of formal networking events happening during The Business Show, which you can take advantage of, for free, and actually meet people who might want to do business with you. For a start, find the 4Networking area where they will be hosting the successful 121 Roadshow.
- Remember that the show is the start of the conversation. Don’t try to sell there and then, particularly at any of the networking events. Start the conversation that you will then continue after the event. You are likely to be forgotten if you try to sell, you are likely to be remember if you show interest in the other person and then follow up with them afterwards in a less frenetic and busy environment.
- Book time into your diary to follow up. This is what most people won’t do and this is where you have a huge opportunity to stand out. Make sure you have time over the weekend or very early next week to follow up with the people you promised to.
- Be personal, copied and pasted Emails stand out a mile. When you follow up don’t send the exact same Email to everyone. People notice when you do that and, frankly, it looks lazy. If you want to REALLY stand out (and you do), pen a personal Email to each person you met, mentioning details of your conversation. This will help them to remember you as well, along with showing that you were paying attention to them. If you want to REALLY REALLY stand out, send a postcard or even, God forbid, pick up the actual phone and talk to them. Or do a combination of all of the above. Everyone else will be sending a standard Email. Be the minority and do something different.
You may have other ideas, or techniques which have worked for you. If so, please comment or message me to share them.
And here is one big thing not to do if you’re an attendee.
DO NOT try to sell to the exhibitors. They’ve spent thousands of pounds to be there, have invested shed loads of time, had thousands of leaflets printed and they want to speak to people who want to buy from them, not to people who want to sell to them. Every exhibitor I have ever spoken to finds it enormously frustrating when their valuable time is taken up with badly thought through sales pitches. Respect the fact that they have made this investment in their own business.
And most importantly, like I do, enjoy the show. There is so much to do, so many brilliant speakers to listen to, so many new products and services which could benefit your business and, of course, thousands of people to start those little conversations with.
Stefan Thomas runs The Networking Retreat – 24 hours to improve your results from networking forever.