4 Ways to Work the Trade Show Floor

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It’s accounting conference season – now through the end of 2013 – and I wanted to follow up my posting last week, “The 5 Types of Trade Show Reps” with a posting that was a bit more focused on the attendee.

The larger accounting conferences put on by state CPA societies, the AICPA and other groups tend to have exhibit halls with numerous providers manning booths, selling you their “wares,” if you will. I’m sure many readers will agree that, often, attendees tend to avoid the trade show floor because they think either get sucked into a conversation they don’t really want to have or they just aren’t interested in buying anything right at that moment.

I’ve been in your shoes, having attended many, many communications conferences with the same vibe going on.

However, I can tell you that it’s a mistake NOT to spend as much time as you can with the companies on the trade show floor. Here’s how to have a rewarding and productive experience.

  1. Even if you aren’t interested in buying or reviewing anything right at that moment, chances are you will at some point during the year. Collecting business cards and marketing collateral will give you the information you need when it comes time to look at a certain kind of software, service or whatever it is that you need.
  2. Most of the time, we don’t know what we don’t know, so it’s good to learn as much as possible about technology, for example. The AICPA TECH+/Practitioners Conference is only a few days away and I know the show floor will be full of technologies, systems and processes I may have heard about, but really didn’t know much more than that. This is a great time to educate yourself on the kinds of companies that can make your firm or business stand apart from the rest.
  3. Avoid the swag and pay attention to what the reps are saying. You’re not there to collect pencils, pens or flash drives, so instead of fixating on the fun-size packet of M&Ms in the goldfish bowl, give yourself a break and focus on what the provider has to say. Not everyone will have something you’re interested in, of course, but you never know what nuggets you can pick up. Now, if the provider is offering, for example, a white paper in exchange for your business card, then by all means do what you can to get the white paper.
  4. This is a great time for networking. In addition to visiting with the providers, the refreshment breaks and receptions held in the exhibit hall are a great time to visit with people you don’t know – other accountants just like you who are there, too, to meet other people. Make a plan before you go into the hall to meet as many as 5 new people each day. Again, you never know what kind of referrals or exchange of business you may stumble on.

I’m sure there are many more ways to get the most of our of your show experience. What are some of your ideas?


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