With focus, organization, and some strategic planning, a trip to a trade show can be an instrumental investment in your business that pays you back multiple times during the course of a year. As you prepare to travel to ISSA/INTERCLEAN®North America 2015 in Las Vegas, NV, this month, consider these inside tips on how to maximize your return on investment (ROI).
Assess and Create Clear Goals
Before you attend any conference, trade show, or expo, it’s important to clearly define your goals for the experience.
To focus your goals into manageable objectives, you’ll need to take an honest assessment of your capabilities and needs. For example, saying you want to increase your sales or meet new vendors won’t get you very far. However, setting a goal to connect with 10 new people is realistic and will directly help grow your business. Goals can include people you want to meet, workshops you want to attend, or even just booths you want to see. Whatever your goals are, ask yourself how the trade show can help you attain them, and then attack them head on.
When you have a big organization with many attendees, it becomes important to communicate your group goals and divvy those goals up among your group. For Rich Feczko, national director, systems, standards, innovation, and global support at Crothall Healthcare, that means a multi-tiered approach with five separate groups and specialized goals for each one.
Write It All Down
Formalize your goals for yourself and your team by writing them down and referring to them often. Writing down your goals will not only help you remember them, but also help you refine and follow up on them.
Additionally, ISSA/INTERCLEAN is a busy trade show, and once you get there it is easy to become caught up in all of the excitement. To stay focused, you’ll want to write down as much as you can. That doesn’t necessarily mean walking around with a notebook.
Yasser Youssef, president of The Budd Group and immediate past president of the Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI), has been attending the ISSA/INTERCLEAN show for 10 years. He makes sure to write down his goals, and uses his phone to make note-taking easier. “I create an ISSA note on my iPhone and take notes for each day of the show,” he says. “I even take a picture of people’s cards. Every day has its own set of notes. I also make sure to track any action items I need to follow up on.”
Make New Friends, But Keep the Old
ISSA/INTERCLEAN is a unique trade show because the focus for most attendees (and exhibitors) is as much about catching up with old friends as it is about making new connections. “I like to think of ISSA/INTERCLEAN as the ‘family reunion’ for the cleaning industry,” Dan Wagner, ISSA director of industry standards and training, says. “Attendees are encouraged to carve out time to both visit with old connections and make new contacts in order to maximize networking, education, and peer learning opportunities.”
In the excitement that comes at ISSA/INTERCLEAN, it’s easy to get swept up in all of the new products, companies, and people. Be sure to bring extra business cards because there will be many people who want to meet you, too. But in the midst of all of the excitement that comes from meeting new people, remember the old friends. This might be one of the only opportunities you have to see them each year.
Map Out a Schedule
The No. 1 thing you can do to get the most out of ISSA/INTERCLEAN might just be to study a map before you get there. There will be more than 700 exhibitors on the show floor this year—that’s a labyrinth.
You can access a map of exhibitors at www.issa.com/exhibitors or by downloading the trade show app at www.issa.com/app. This map is a valuable tool because it will allow you to strategically plan your meetings with exhibitors and cut down on time spent walking around the floor or finding your way. This year there will also be exhibits outside, which means there will be even more ground to cover.
You’ll also want to focus on filling your time with constructive meetings. This includes breakfasts, dinners, social meetings, and even extra time for impromptu meetings. To help attendees maximize their investment and estimate the right amount of time to spend at the event, networking, and in meetings, ISSA created a planning formula, available at www.issa.com/showplan.
When it comes to scheduling, consider hitting the most booths on the second day of the event. It might be a little less crowded after the initial allure has worn off at some of the more popular booths.
Keep it Going
When you get back to the office, keep the trade show top of mind. This is the time to pull up those action items from your notes.
"Instituting a process for following up with sales leads after the show is crucial and requires discipline,” Wagner says. “Far too many companies invest in a show, only to neglect one of the most important parts—making sure that their new connections become close industry contacts that they can turn to for support and further information sharing.”
As a general rule, try to contact your new connections and leads within 48 hours. Using a generic, form email to reach out to all of your contacts will ensure that recipients will ignore your message. Take the time to write a personalized email; it will make a huge difference in how your communication is received.
As soon as your team is back in the office, you should have a follow-up meeting to review your action items. Bring those original goals to this meeting and refer to them often. Make sure to track your progress on the problems you wanted to solve and the goals you wrote down.
At Crothall, each team summarizes takeaways from ISSA/INTERCLEAN and then reports back to the whole group under the umbrella of the group’s original goals, according to Feczko. They continue to meet monthly to review progress on the show’s takeaways.
One way to make sure you do not lose momentum is to utilize technology to capture information and to ensure that follow-ups are scheduled. This can include traditional customer relationship management (CRM) software as well as a bounty of new mobile apps that help with everything from organizing and storing contact information to following up with leads.
Maximizing your experience at any trade show is going to take careful planning, focus, and the energy to keep the momentum going after the event is over. ISSA/INTERCLEAN is a huge event for the industry with ample opportunity to grow your business and expertise. This year, make the most out of it.
Multiplying Your Connections with Social Media
When a conference or trade show uses social media, its power becomes magnified and the potential to connect and influence dramatically increases. Engaging with the conference’s social media strategy is an opportunity to boost your company’s search engine optimization (SEO) with a few strikes of your thumb.
When you go to an event, find its hashtag and use it. This is the unifying name of the conference preceded by the # (pound) symbol.
For example, the ISSA/INTERCLEAN North America 2015 show’s hashtag is #ISSA2015. When searched in any social media app or website (such as Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook), all public posts that have that hashtag will pop up. At a show like ISSA/INTERCLEAN, that means thousands of vendors, potential clients, competitors, and industry professionals could see your company’s name and post within just a few seconds when you follow any social media post with #ISSA2015.