Think back over all of that university training that you (or your parents) paid for. Just for a good measure, throw in all of that training that you’ve sat through since you started working. Wow – that’s a lot of learning. One quick question for you: in all of that classroom / online time, did anyone ever take the time to tell you how to “do” a tradeshow correctly? Did they ever sit you down and explain to you how a product manager can get the most out of each trade show experience? Hmm, looks like there is a gap in your education – let’s see if we can fill you in…
Email Is Bad!
Picture the scene: you’re at a trade show and you’ve just sat through a great presentation on the challenges that your customers will be facing during the upcoming year. The session is over, everyone piles out of the doors and then what happens? More often than not, standing alone, everyone whips out their Blackberry’s / iPhones and starts to check and answer emails. What a waste!
Look, being at a tradeshow is a unique opportunity for you as a product manager to rub shoulders with all sorts of people who may be important to the success of both you and your product. Don’t waste your time doing email while you are at the show, email will wait and you can do it later on.
Mom Was Wrong: You Should Talk To Strangers
Depending how many times you’ve been to a given show, there are probably a number of people that you already know who will be there. Don’t waste your time talking to them (do talk to them, but not too much). Instead, go talk to strangers.
You can always get in touch with people that you already have a relationship with – they know you and you know how to get in touch with them. While at the show, spend your valuable time reaching out to people that you don’t already know (and giving away your business cards). A tradeshow is a once-a-year opportunity to quickly create new relationships that may benefit both you and your product.
No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn
Let’s be honest about this, we’re all getting older. No matter how sharp you think that your brain is, so much happens each day at a trade show that if you don’t take some time at the end of the day to sort things out, then you’ll forget too much.
You need to keep in mind that you don’t need to wait until the trade show is over before you start to use what you’ve learned. Use the end of each day to sort out the information that you’ve collected, send emails to others and yourself with instructions based on information learned, and generally use what you’ve learned one day to prepare for the next day.
Can We Do A Trade Show?
With travel budgets being cut to the bone and you having less and less available time to get things done, trade shows can be a godsend. Specifically, they are a great time to meet up with all of those people that you should have been talking with, but haven’t been.
To make the most of the event, don’t just leave things to chance. Instead, make calls and send emails to vendors and partners a week before the show and schedule time to meet up with them and have a quick talk. This will make up for the visits that you should have made earlier in the year.
Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up
You would think that after having invested all of that time in preparing for and then attending a trade show, product managers would do a good job of following up after the show. You would be wrong.
All too often we put everything that we collected into that bag that they gave us at the show and then we come home, tuck the bag with its brochures, badge holder, and collected business cards away somewhere and promptly forget about it. Instead, you need to create a clear plan for what you want to do with the new information that you’ve collected and the contacts that you’ve made. Oh, and don’t forget to send out thank-you’s to people that you’ve met for the first time.
What All Of This Means For You
Trade shows can take up a great deal of your time. On top of everything else that you need to be doing, this can end up putting you even farther behind in what you need to be accomplishing if you aren’t careful.
However, if you prepare to get the most out of a trade show, then it can be time well spent. Using it to make new contacts and collect needed new information can turn a required use of your time into a desired used of time.
Use the suggestions that we’ve covered when you attend your next industry trade show. The results will speak for themselves…
Question For You: What do you think is the best way to follow up on new contacts that you make at a trade show: email or phone call?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
How do you measure success for your product? For most product managers this comes down to one number: the number of customers that their product has. Instead of thinking of all of your product’s customers as being a bunch of people that your product is dating, maybe it’s time to start to think about what it’s going to take to make your customers fall in love with your product…