Trade shows are a whirlwind from preparation to execution. You apply for speaking opportunities, book your flights, plan your schedule, find out which of your contacts you’re likely to see and block time for meetings over coffees and dinners. When the convention actually rolls around, your activity is a blur. You’re lucky if you check off half the items on your list, but new opportunities emerge at a rapid rate.
This week, VMWorld 2016 is ruling the data center industry. Although this particular show is always a major event – we’ve had clients launch their businesses, announce major news and win serious awards during its previous iterations – from a planning perspective, it’s no different than most shows for rapidly changing industries. Below are some ways we’ve seen organizations get ahead of the game and finish VMWorld, or any other event, with measurably positive results:
Don’t procrastinate your planning.
Sure, you’re probably not going to nail down a coffee meeting with a friendly contact six months in advance of a trade show – but if you know that person is planning to attend well in advance, you can build a rapport and increase your chances of having a productive chat. Set reminders on your calendar in the months leading up to a show to inquire about attendees, plan your roadmap and engage on social media with others in the event community.
Apply for event-related opportunities.
Sponsoring VMWorld will guarantee your company a booth, but winning a best-of-show award or leading a breakout session will increase awareness about your product and elevate your brand’s voice. Before any trade show, review your options for such opportunities, and craft a killer application if you can.
Keep your schedule flexible.
On the VMWorld floor, a journalist’s schedule can change in a heartbeat – which, in turn, could cancel the briefing you were looking forward to, or change your schedule in a way you didn’t anticipate. Prep your team for meetings that may not happen, and you’ll ensure your spokespeople are always prepared to hit their messaging targets, fuel positive media coverage and accommodate for others’ flexibility.
Audit and update your content strategy in advance.
During a trade show, your high level of activity can feel like you’re practically feeding the sales funnel by hand – but if your networking and promotion efforts don’t clearly lead new prospects into your sales content, you risk losing their interest.
Conduct an audit of your website, blog, downloadable assets and social media channels. Are your executives actively sharing thought leadership that doesn’t read like a branded commercial? Does your blog routinely solve industry problems, and is it engaging enough to hold a prospect’s interest for more than one post? When a new contact downloads an e-book or white paper from your website, is your sales team ready to follow up with personalized engagement tactics? If the answers to any of these questions are making you cringe, it’s time to get moving on a content strategy update.
Be visible and responsive in real time on social media.
Much of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a trade show happens days, weeks and months before the actual event. Although social presence requires planning in advance, real-time monitoring and activity can turn your plans into results. Try live-tweeting the sessions you attend, joining conversations taking place on the event’s hashtag, following the top influencers attending your event and sharing pictures from your own experience. You’ll humanize your company’s account and leave with a list of new fans – and prospects – to nurture.
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