I’ve done a lot of work promoting innovative start-ups, and one of the most effective and cost-effective tools is attending suitable trade shows as a non-paying visitor. Here’s a brief guide to making the most of your day:

Step 1# Plan it

There will always be more targets that you can hit. By prioritizing key companies you can narrow it down to a manageable hit list. Expect to have worthwhile business conversations with around two thirds and shake hands and said hello to the rest.

Step 2# Set scheduled breaks and be disciplined about taking them

Work the room as hard as you can for an hour, then stop for 10 minutes and have a coffee. Aim for 12 productive conversations per hour. Take the breaks in the morning even if you don’t think you need them. By late afternoon you’ll be glad you did.

Step 3# Smile

Most exhibitors tend to be feeling a degree of tension, and they’ll welcome a happy face in a sea of frowns.

Step 4# If you see people selling, let them sell

They’ve paid for the opportunity and won’t thank you for interrupting them so don’t do anything that might make them cut short a pitch to a potential buyer. Wait very unobtrusively in the background or come back later.

Step 5# Time to pitch

Rehearse your elevator pitch to the point where it’s seamless, can be delivered with charm and focused completely on the individual. It sounds obvious but I see so many people stumble over their words, and this is the wrong place to do it.

Step 6# Make a fuss of the little guys

These events feature a lot of big guns who pay a fortune for prime spots, but also those who’ve paid far less for a cramped cubicle. And that cubicle represents a massive chunk of their marketing budget. This is a big day for them, and if you make them feel valued they won’t forget it.

Step 7# You’ll reach a point in the afternoon when boredom and fatigue hit exhibitors hard

If someone looks tired and stressed, buy a good cup of coffee (there’s usually a Starbucks or Costa onsite), take it over and tell them “you look like you could do with this”. It’s a good ice-breaker and also a reminder that the best way to build relationships with people, at trade shows or anywhere else, is to treat them with consideration.

If you need support or advice targeting any industry or market, give me a call. It’s always a pleasure to help an innovative start-up find their niche.

Good luck!

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