With quite a few conferences under our belt for ChronoTrack and a more on the calendar, we like to consider ourselves experts of the tradeshow world… or at least pretty knowledgeable. Tradeshows offer a lot of opportunities to grow your business, but they can also be expensive and overwhelming.
Here are our tips for getting the most out of attending an endurance conference or tradeshow:
Have a Plan
Before registering for a conference, you should know exactly what it is you want to accomplish so that you can plan wisely. Do you want to learn more about the different race management services and softwares that are out there? Need tips on race planning? Need help with race promotion? Whatever it is, familiarize yourself with the schedule of special events and speakers and make time to attend those that will be most beneficial to your objectives. Stay on target, but make time for some of those sessions on topics you hadn’t necessarily been thinking about too. Knowing the conference inside-out will also make you a great conversationalist and resource for other attendees!
Work the Booths
Visit the booths to see what’s new in the world of race management. That’s what they’re there for! Don’t be afraid to talk to the people at the booth. They won’t take in personally if the product isn’t right for you. Really. Ask people what’s new with their product and what their competitive advantage is. Tell people in earnest what your needs are. You might be surprised at what you’ll learn.
Take charge of the conversation. Be prepared for either outcome. If you don’t think the product is what you need, try something like this to end your conversation, “It sounds like you’re doing some great things with <race registration software> (insert whatever you’re talking about there) but it’s just not what I need right now. Thank you for taking time for the explanation though.” If you are one to feel bad about rejecting someone, ask for a card or some information you can take with you in case your needs change (after all, they might). It’s fine to say you are all set if you don’t want to hand over your contact info. Better that than false expectations and a cold lead for the salesperson.
If you ARE interested in the race timing/race registration/race management product (or whatever else it might be), jot down notes about your conversation on the back of a business card or flyer so you’ll actually remember who they are and why you liked the product when you get home. Schedule a follow-up call or make a plan to connect via email after the show.
This is a BIG reason why we all go to these shows, both as exhibitors and attendees. Sometimes it can be difficult though, because you can get lost in a sea of people. Here are a few simple networking tips to try:
- Bring your business cards and give them to anyone you talk to. Anyone.
- Get other peoples’ business cards. After you walk away, write something down about your conversation. Follow up after the conference with an email if they are someone you want to stay connected with.
- Connect with people on LinkedIn the same day you meet them.
- Attend speed networking events. Yes, they can get loud and a bit crazy but you can usually find at least ONE good connection that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, and that’s all you need.
- Do the morning runs. Get. Out. Of. Bed. I know it hurts, but do it. Some of the best connections happen on these early morning outings.
- Sit down next to a stranger (or strangers) at a breakout session or a meal. Introduce yourself and ask them what their favorite part of the conference has been so far. You’ll be the hero for breaking the awkward silence and being the brave conversation starter. People will be relieved you sat next to them.
- Check out this book called, “Love is the Killer App”. Tim Sanders writes extensively about networking and constantly connecting people in your network to others. His concepts and ideas can help give you a purpose when talking with people that may not offer something that’s directly related to you, but might be of help to someone else in your network.
Share Your Knowledge & Experience
While you’re at the show (and after, too), share what you’re learning with your network who couldn’t make it to the event. Share nuggets of advice you hear from speakers via your social channels. 140 characters is enough for a great speaker quote. See a new endurance-related product you like? Share pictures via Instagram. Share ideas from breakout sessions in a blog when you get back to your hotel room at the end of the day. Other race organizers that couldn’t attend will appreciate the content AND feeling the connection with the event.
If you hear a speaker you really like and you think their content is relevant to your athletes, why not ask them to do a guest blog (or maybe a guest email) that you can share with your participants? Get creative! Try new ways to engage both your network of race organizers AND your participants with what you learn at these events. Giving yourself this additional purpose can help you focus on what to do with your time while you’re at these events.
In the end, wear comfortable shoes, eat well, and try to get some sleep at these shows (yes, I know this can be difficult). Tradeshows can be a whirlwind, but that doesn’t mean you have to live like a zombie. If you follow these tips, you should be able to budget your time, accomplish your goals, meet new people, and ultimately enjoy yourself.
To learn more about ChronoTrack, click here.