Tradeshow Networking
July 10, 2013 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Help me make the most of an upcoming tradeshow to network and plant seeds for future freelance projects.

Dear mefites, twice a year in my city there is a tradeshow in my greater industry that comes to town. I have a good job doing video production and editing in the outdoor industry, but, am looking to pick up some freelance clients with the hopes of having my own business in the near future. While this show is geared towards buyers from stores making orders with manufacturers, it is a great place to meet all kinds of folks from all corners of the industry. Aside from business cards, an iPad with my demo reel, and lurking around the show, what are the best tactics for setting up meetings in advance, making connections, and making an impression? Thanks in advance.
posted by trbrts to Work & Money (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think planning on whipping out your demo reel during the trade show is maybe not going to happen.

How I would approach this opportunity:

1) Make sure your demo reel is hosted on YouTube, and that you have embedded this content on your website

2) Make sure your business cards have the URL displayed prominently... Better yet, tell them what keywords to Google

3) Don't expect that people will look at your card, type in the URL or keyword, look at the demo reel, and then call you up. You're going to need to follow-up.

4) Who is going to be displaying a booth at the trade show? Are any of these orgs in your strike zone?

If so, contact them before the trade show, and mention you will be there and are looking forward to seeing them. Then, pop by during the show, bearing in mind that a) the people manning the booth are either quite junior with little influence, or b) the people manning the booth want to connect with customers. For the latter use case, try approaching at the beginning of the show and staying for a minute, just to say hi. Ask for a card and follow up after the trade show.

5) Have an elevator speech prepared and rehearsed. An elevator speech is a short, 3-5 sentence explanation of all the good things you do. It should explain a problem and how you solve it.

You can use the elevator speech when connecting with people at the trade show. You can be quite open about the fact that it's an elevator speech. Start with: "This is my elevator speech."

Make sure you end with "do you know anyone who might want to talk to me?"

6) Ask questions and listen. Later, take notes about what you heard, and reflect that in subsequent conversations. Treat every connection and conversation as the basis of a future, ongoing relationship. Connecting with people is intrinsically good, even if they have no work to offer you. Joining a community is rewarding because, hey, friends are always nice, and people refer to people they know.

7) In the spirit of what I said above, be friendly. Talk to people. Say you are networking. Give the elevator speech. Listen. And then move on. It's totally okay to say "Well, I don't want to monopolize your time, I am going to move on and keep meeting people."

8) Follow up with an email the people you meet. The Pareto Rule will dictate that 80% of the people you email the next day will never contact you back, but that's just the way it is. The people you establish a relationship with, though, are gold, to be treasured, because they are friendly and Get It.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:50 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Contact the tradeshow, and see if you can make a documentary on the show. Or daily newscasts highlighting each vendor. Maybe get an actor to do the interviews.
Then you can follow up with "your segment is at this url at this time mark. By the way, I'm available to do video production for your company"
posted by anon4now at 8:59 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

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