Exhibiting at or even attending a trade show is all about the contacts you make, the leads you obtain, and the people you connect with. That’s why it’s imperative to network and get to know your attendees as much as possible. Here are some easy, foolproof ways to maximize your chances of developing a positive relationship with a trade show attendee and, ultimately, growing your company’s network.

1. Look for networking events pre-show.
Look for a page on the trade show’s site called “Networking Opportunities and Orientation,” where you can find a list of events. When you are at the show, look in the Show Guide; be sure to add the events you want to attend to your calendar. Don’t forget to be on the lookout for exhibitor-sponsored events as well; invites may be received by postal mail, email, or at exhibitor booths.

2. Make yourself visible.
If you’re comfortable with it, volunteer to speak at a few of the events you attend. This bumps up your credibility and directs more attendees to your booth. If you aren’t exhibiting, it still helps to submit a proposal for a workshop or showcase. If you secure a spot, let your customers know you’ll be there and when they can see you. Additionally, you can invite prospects to the event and schedule for them to meet at your booth. When other attendees see the flow of traffic around you, it’ll peak their curiosity and draw them right over.

3. Make small talk meaningful.
It’s a big mistake to dismiss ‘small talk’ as insignificant conversation! When you ask the right questions and bring up the right topics, small talk will reveal valuable information and insight about the person you’re with. So while it’s okay to break the ice by complaining about the weather, it’s always a good idea to try and bring substance to your conversations.

To do this, ask questions to learn about someone’s experience and interests. Then share something about yourself, both personally and professionally. Sharing similar experiences can open you up to comparing professional skills and inquiring about potential collaboration opportunities. Whatever your industry or background, you’ll be able to create big opportunities when you pay attention and ask meaningful questions.

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4. Get tech-savvy with business cards.
Bring your business cards, but focus more on collecting cards from the people you want to stay in touch with (like potential leads) and follow up with them right away. There are some phone apps that provide easy ways to gather business cards: you can simply photograph the image and the card details are automatically added to your address book contacts, and they can even be uploaded to your LinkedIn account as new connections. Using tools like this will not only make networking easier, but it’ll allow you to save important contact details about potential new clients.

5. Don’t be afraid to stand out.
Given the level of competition among trade show exhibitors, attendees are often overwhelmed with promotional emails in the days leading up to the big event. Unless you’re different from the rest of the group, your messages might be lost in the tsunami of emails flooding the attendees’ inboxes.

This is when it’s helpful to market yourself a little bit differently – whether it’s postcards during the event or using trade show magicians to draw attention to your booth. The more different you are from the crowd, the higher is the likelihood of talking to and networking with your potential leads.

6. Be active on social media (especially LinkedIn)
Whenever you interact with someone at a conference, be sure to add them on LinkedIn during the show. If they are a potential lead, this will allow you to more easily keep in touch; and even if they’re not, there’s a chance that someone in their network might be – so the next time you publish great content, it just increases the chances it will reach the right people.

With their permission, you can send a LinkedIn connection request right when you meet them!

You can also add people on other social media platforms, but unless you were able to really connect with that individual on a personal level, it may seem out of place to try and connect with them on any other platform.

7. Be yourself!
Above all, it’s important to be yourself. People tend to run from what they perceive to be cheesy, inauthentic sales pitches, and now more than ever it really counts for businesses to be true to what they do. As they say, networking is 90% attitude and 10% tactic! Try to keep in mind that in order to successfully network, you must have something of value to offer – and vice versa.

For more trade show tips and tricks, check out our other blogs or take a look at our trade show services.