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How to Build Your Network at Trade Shows

August 20, 2019 | Becca Taylor | No Comments |

Hey, I’m Becca and I’m New Here

Imagine this … A young woman in her second job out of college. She took a leap into a new industry, selling unfamiliar products and services into a completely new type of buyer. Imagine her just 45 days into that new job attending a conference. The anticipation … The stress … The anxiety. She’s there to learn, but, bigger than that, she’s there to build her network in order to parlay those relationships into future sales. How can she have compelling conversations with the right people? How can she stand out with the people who matter? What’s the best way to maintain the connections she makes? Have you ever been in the situation of needing to build your network at trade shows and been stuck on how to practically make it happen?

Yeah, me too! In fact, this situation just happened to me two weeks ago when I attended the 9th Annual Digital Marketing for Medical Device Conference in Minneapolis. I wanted to share the steps I took (and the results!) with other people looking to accomplish the same thing.

Make the Most of Trade Show Attendance

First, there’s a great article with tips from various CEOs, here: “12 Trade Show Networking Tips for Entrepreneurs“. Don’t let the title fool you, even if you don’t self-identify as an entrepreneur, these tips are absolutely helpful for any and all trade show attendees! In fact, the second one, “Do Your Homework”, rolls right into what I did.

Networking Hack from Salesloft CEO, Kyle Porter

As circumstance would have it, while I thought about how to best prepare to network at the trade show, I reviewed our CEO’s Catalyst interview with Salesloft CEO, Kyle Porter (Watch it here!). During the interview, Kyle shared his hack for connecting with really big speakers at events, like trade shows. It’s a five step process:

  1. Do your homework on the speakers and their topics
  2. Connect ahead of the show with a message something like, “I’m really looking forward to hearing you speak at X Conference on Y Subject! I’m currently struggling with X in my role and hope you’ll touch on some helpful tips that I can leverage! Hope we can connect after your session.” I’ve found this reach out works best on LinkedIn, but could also be done via email.
  3. Ahead of their session, they’ll probably be mulling around. Go introduce yourself!
  4. Sit front row. Pay attention. Ask smart questions.
  5. After their session, stick around and talk to them.

How the Networking Hack Worked for Me

One session really intrigued me with Melissa Lee, who is the Director of Community relations at Bigfoot Biomedical. I loved the fact that, as a newer startup, Bigfoot embraces new ideas. Ahead of the session, I sent Melissa an InMail video on LinkedIn. We use Vidyard via Salesloft. I’m not sure if she watched, to be honest. She didn’t get back to me, but if you’re in sales, that’s the norm and something I expected, as, again, I’m building my network. Why should she trust me?!

During her session, I was front row. Melissa was clearly so passionate about her position and really wanted to make an effort to ensure their customers’ voices are heard throughout the organization. That focus on customer-centricity is certainly something we’re passionate about at LeadMD as well.

Utilizing Facebook and Instagram, Melissa created a 12-month plan to ask different questions to customers who require the use of insulin every day relating to diabetes. These questions were hitting home for a lot and overall, received a great deal feedback that the company was able to use towards their solutions.

I asked her how she monitored this data-that seemed like a smart question. She explained how she measured conversations and connections being made within the comments on these questions asked. Side note, she completely oversaw this project by herself.! I thought it was so awesome that she was solely driving this, and she had seen such a great outcome.

After the session, I introduced myself and told her I enjoyed the session and learned a lot. I’m still waiting on my LI connection, but that’s okay! I had a lot of fun getting to know more about Bigfoot, Melissa and hear about her project. So, that’s a win for me!

Networking Beyond Trade Shows

While there isn’t always an opportunity to attend conferences and build your network at trade shows, there are so many outlets to connect with those in your specific industry. LinkedIn is always my first point of contact and such a simple way to create connections and start conversations. The importance of networking is huge and, in my opinion, it is worth it to reach out to those who can offer you beneficial insight. More often than not, those you reach out to are more than likely willing to talk to you. And if not, write a blog, tag them and maybe they will!

Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and raise your hand!

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