Making the Most of a Tradeshow – The Algonquin Way

The Algonquin Studios Tradeshow BoothI’m gearing up for a pretty exciting (and potentially scary) moment in my career; I’m representing Algonquin Studios at the Virginias Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association’s regional Continuing Marketing Education conference on Friday…and I’m going alone.

In my role here at Algonquin, I’ve attended other events but this is the first time I’ll do so without a wingman or, more accurately, without being someone else’s wingman. So, leading up to this conference, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to ensure I’m representing the company in the best possible way.

We work hard to maintain strong relationships with our clients and everyone here at Algonquin is expected to apply four basic principles-The Four H’s: honor, honesty, humility, and humor-to everything we do. But it occurred to me that applying the Four H’s in a tradeshow or conference setting can be a different ballgame altogether. Let’s take a closer look:

Honoring Your Client – It can be tough to truly learn about a prospect on a tradeshow floor. People are hustling from one break out session to another and there are a ton of distractions in the form of other booths, PA announcements, giveaways, even snacks. And there’s only so much time to devote to any one prospect –they’ve got other vendors they want to talk to and you’ve got other people you want to meet.

So how do you make sure you’re honoring the people you do speak with at a show? I think it’s about making sure you’re doing more listening than talking. Sure, you’re there to get your name out there but if you don’t know what your potential clients need and what their pain points really are, how can you be sure you’ll be able to help them in the long run? Getting to know your prospects, beyond a business card and an email address, is always a good idea.

Being Honest with Your Client – It can be easy to claim your company can do everything for everyone. But, let’s be honest-you’re not going to be the right choice for every show attendees’ needs. You’re there to gather new leads and turning interested parties away might seem counterintuitive to your goals, but knowing when to say “Yes, we can absolutely help you with that!” and when to admit that a different vendor or solution might be a better fit can be vital to managing the expectations of your prospects.

Maybe a booth visitor has heard great things about your company from a colleague and has stopped by to learn more about you but she has a very specific project that’s just not in your bag of tricks. It might be easy to lead her down the primrose path, letting her think you have a product or service that will be a great fit for her needs so you can try to sell her on your actual offerings at a later time, but it’s not the right thing to do.

Honesty about your capabilities might mean you lose a potential project in the short term but it also helps protect your company’s reputation as a trustworthy organization, increasing the likelihood she’ll reach out to you in the future when a project that’s perfect for your company comes along!

Being Humble About Your Work –Remember the visitor who stopped by your booth in the example above? Imagine that this time, after she gets done telling you about all the fantastic things she’s heard about you from others, she presents you with a project you know you’ll be able to hit out of the park.

While it’s tempting to bask in the praise she’s offering, it’s more important to remember that there are probably plenty of companies that can do the work she requires. Heck, they might be able to do it even better than you can. Remembering that you’re replaceable, possibly by the guy standing three booths down from yours, is not only an easy way to avoid taking any potential client or project for granted.

Share Humor in all Situations – Yes, exhibiting at tradeshows can be costly and justifying the cost to executive management often makes attendance feel like super serious business. But, if you don’t let yourself have fun at the show I think you’re missing out on a great opportunity to connect with your potential clients.

I recently attended a conference with two other Algonquin team members and within a few hours of being there, one of us got sick. Our three man team was down a man for the majority of the show and the two of us who stayed healthy had to run the ship (I should mention; it was the first show either of us had ever attended as exhibitors). At first, we panicked but then, as we started telling our booth neighbors what was up, we realized…there was actually something kind of funny about the situation. Here we were, two conference newbies, manning the booth ourselves while our experienced leader was quarantined in his hotel room. So we told a few more people and got a few more laughs. And those people told other people and eventually we had visitors stopping by just to check on us-making sure we were ok, offering advice, looking for updates on our coworker’s condition, and, yes, even asking for more information about what Algonquin Studios was all about.

Sharing the story of our coworker’s ill-timed illness helped us break the ice with other exhibitors and prospective clients. It made us human and it made us memorable.

These are the things I’m going to keep in mind later this week but I’ve got some questions for you…

How does your company or organization attack a tradeshow or conference? Do you go in with hard and fast goals-a number of new prospects to gather contact information from or is your primary focus meeting people, learning about their pain points, and engaging the people you for whom you can really make a difference? Either way, how do you make sure you achieve your goals?

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2 thoughts on “Making the Most of a Tradeshow – The Algonquin Way

  1. As an attendee at many trade shows, I would appreciate it if more companies adopted an honesty policy. Having companies actually listen to me and be honest about their capabilities would be quite refreshing. And, a little humor is always appreciated!

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