Marketing Yourself at Events and Tradeshows: How to Prepare

In part one of this series, I discussed the "why" associated with attending conference, trade shows and events. Clearly, you need to know why you want to attend if you want to get the most out of your conference experience. In part two, we'll discuss how to prepare for the conference, so whether you're gearing up for QuickBooks® Connect or another event, here's what you need to know. In addition, my friends and associates contributed provided invaluable feedback.

What to wear. There are definitely essentials you should consider bringing with you to make your experience the best it can be. Having attended quite a few of these events, large and small, I’ve learned the importance of being comfortable. Often, the venues are very spread out, so there’s a lot of walking to get from Point A to Point B – all on a tight time schedule. Therefore, I make it a point to pack and wear comfortable clothes and shoes, as I expect to be doing lots of walking to and from classes, exhibits, venues and hotels.

What to bring. As far as marketing materials go, I normally bring some business cards along with a limited supply of takeaways, such as pens, or some other useful device imprinted with my name and business information. With the “fancy” items in limited supply, I made a game out of choosing who would receive those items, which helps break the ice with other attendees. For example, at Scaling New Heights, I brought some nice three-device charging cord takeaways and posted a picture of them on Attendify, an app used for social interaction at the conference. I asked people to find me and mention something they might have seen in social media about me that day, giving them one of my takeaways as a prize. This game helped me meet and bond with many attendees who I wouldn’t have met otherwise. 

After attending a previous QuickBooks Connect, Richard Roppa, owner of Quasar Cowboy Consulting, put together a list of some additional items worth bringing with you on your trip:

  • Smart Devices. Each and every conference-goer needs a smartphone and/or a tablet. They will be your lifeline back to your office and clients.
  • Note-taking Apps. Start taking notes on your tablet with an app like NotesPlus or NoteShelf. "These apps convert handwriting to computer text and allow me to take notes exactly the way I want to; you’ll also want to take pictures of important slides to reference later," said Richard.
  • Transportation Apps. Try Uber or Lyft, because transportation to and from the event venue can be tricky. These services are cheaper than taxis and can get you from your hotel to the venue without ever having to hail a cab. They really take the stress of getting somewhere in an unknown city out of the equation.
  • Swag Bag. Be sure to bring a collapsible bag to take all your cool new swag home. It’s difficult and expensive for vendors to plan for swag, so be mindful of this as you peruse the conference. Don’t visit a booth and wipe out all of their supplies. If you want a second piece of swag from a vendor, ask first, and offer to post a picture of it on social media with their branded hashtag. "Take pictures of exhibitors with their swag and make a note of what you liked about their booth/brand on social media; they will appreciate it for sure," he said.
  • Business Cards. You can NEVER have too many business cards at a conference. You don’t want to look unprepared to those new friends you will make at the conference. Make sure that your business cards are interesting and memorable.
  • Chargers. Cell phone and tablet chargers are a MUST. Better yet, bring a portable battery pack you can plug into your phone while you continue exploring the conference. You can also bring an extra for that new friend who maybe didn’t prepare quite as well as you did. "I can promise you, saving someone from a dead smartphone will make you a friend and referral partner for life!"
  • Mints. Unfortunately, meeting people all day and eating food on the go during an event is a recipe for bad breath. Give everyone you meet a breath of fresh air (literally) with some mints.

Some additional suggestions and key takeaways. At any conference, your main goal should be to have fun learning from industry experts and making new connections. These events are major opportunities to build a stronger network, and packing some of these necessities will help you do just that.

Look for my next article on marketing yourself at trade shows and conferences, "Formulating your Game Plan."