I attended the Toronto Financial Technology Trade Show last week with a few members of my staff. We were there to learn about the new developments in accounting and financial software. As many of our small business clients use QuickBooks by Intuit, Simply Accounting or Business Vision by Sage, we were glad to see that they all had booths at the trade show. We all learned some new things, saw some new products and heard some speakers discuss industry concerns and standards, as well as some new developments. But more than the information we gathered to benefit our clients, I found that the real knowledge I wanted to share with everyone was about the exhibitors themselves. This feedback may help those of you who regularly participate in trade shows, or perhaps are planning to participate.
- The Right Staff – You may have a great product or service, but make sure that you have the right staff members at your booth selling that service. Enthusiasm and and extensive knowledge of the product or service is key. There were several people that I spoke to, at various booths, who couldn’t answer some of my basic questions on their product. Remember that your business only has one chance to make a first impression, so choose the right person to represent your business.
- Speakers – I attended 2 seminars, back to back that afternoon. The first one was 45 minutes in length, and although it was clearly evident that the speaker knew his material, it was a mistake to have him as a presenter. There was no passion for the topic, no excitement in the discussion, no engagement of the audience. I can’t tell you how many times I looked at my watch in that 45 minute period, but it was certainly more than twice! The second seminar I attended was an hour and a half. After my first seminar experience I had decided that I was only going to stay for 25 minutes and not waste 90 minutes of my time. I needn’t have worried. The second speaker had me in the first 10 minutes and I didn’t look at my watch once until he indicated that his time was up. I couldn’t believe that the 90 minutes had gone by so fast! I paid closer attention to what he said, and 2 weeks from now, there is no doubt as to which product I will remember and which one will come to the forefront if the need arises for a client.
- No Follow Up – It can be a fairly significant expense for an exhibitor to be present at a trade show. Between participation fees, booth fees, banners, handouts, staffing requirements and even travel, your business has made a finanical investment in having a booth – ensure that there is some return on your investment. I left my business card with several vendors asking them to contact me to discuss some further product options. It has now been 5 business days and I’ve only heard from 2 of the 11 exhibitors with whom I left my card. That is less than a 20% follow up rate!
The bottom line is that it isn’t enough just to be in a trade show. It requires some planning, the right personnel and a system to ensure that there is follow up with any potential customers. If your business isn’t prepared to do that, you should save your money and look for another method of attracting new customers.