July 23, 2015

How to multitask at industry trade shows

We hear it time and time again: I only have two hands, how can I possibly gather information, post to Facebook and Twitter, shoot photos and videos and network with others in the industry?

It’s easier said than done, but practice will only make it better. And preparation is crucial.

Before you head to the airport to fly to the next big trade show, take time to gather your thoughts and your materials and put together a schedule.

In the marketing world, connections are key. Try to meet as many people as possible. You never know when an unexpected “hello” can turn into a business relationship for years to come.

As most of you know, educational sessions are equally as important — you’re never too old to learn. I suggest that you attend as many educational opportunities as possible. It’s a lot to take in, but aim to implement one new trick or tip from every learning experience.

If you’re traveling with a team of people, schedule a pre-conference meeting so overlap is minimal. And if you’re responsible for working the company booth, interact with every person who walks by. And don’t forget to smile: kindness goes a long way in any business.

Social media may seem like a tedious task, but with a little planning and a few free tools, you can set up a schedule in no time.

Aim to post at least once every day the show is in session. I prefer posting in the morning — it seems as a natural time to encourage people to stop by your booth. Pictures work well as “value-added,” but they aren’t mandatory. If you decide against photos, you can easily schedule all posts in advance using TweetDeck and Facebook’s scheduling tool.

While you’re walking the show floor for education, social media and networking opportunities, have your camera ready. You never know when you might come across something new and exciting. As a cautionary measure, look over your photos the night before the final day of the show. If you’re lacking diversity, spend the first hour on the final day beefing up your collection. You’ll be glad you did.

I mentioned this previously, but at trade shows, connections really are vital. The digital stuff is important — Facebook, Twitter, photography — but don’t spend too much time hiding behind technology. Get out there and meet people! Say “hello” (in real life) and ask for business cards. The in-person connections you make at 2015 trade shows may come in handy five years from now.

At the end of every day, take a few minutes to decompress in front of the computer screen. Pick one event or conversation that you experienced that day and write a short blog post. Your audience members that aren’t in attendance will enjoy a short recap. And don’t forget to share it on social media.

When you board the plane for your trip home, reflect on your experience. The hard work is over, but it’s important to gather your thoughts and your new bag of resources.

When will you post your blog entry? Should a photo gallery be uploaded to Facebook and Twitter? When will you reach out to your new contacts and thank them for connecting?

When all of those questions have been answered, it’s important to let others know about your successes — and your failures. Put together a written plan and send it to your team via email. Schedule a meeting with your supervisor to discuss a plan for next year.

It’s never too early to start planning!