Show Time: Working the Crowd

Over the last few weeks we’ve talked about conferences and industry events; first how to choose the right ones for you, then how to prepare in order to maximize effective results.

So, here you are, at Jupiter’s Consumer Online Forum, or Thunder Lizard’s Web Marketing Monterey event, the Variety Summit, or any of the hundreds of other Internet Advertising or e-commerce events. Are you ready to work the event to your best sales advantage? If you are not sure, here are some tips to help.

Working The Floor

Hundreds of people in a giant, semi-darkened hotel ballroom, all listening to the featured speakers and watching PowerPoint slides. Where’s the sales opportunity in that?

It starts outside the ballroom door. Introduce yourself to anyone in the hotel elevator wearing the name badge from your conference, not to pitch them, just to get acquainted. Say hello to the other coffee-drinkers at the continental breakfast, in the registration line, lingering outside having that last cigarette.

We’re not talking about scanning the name tags for prospects and looking for a chance to pounce (that’s real-world Spamming). We’re talking about being a full participant in the event and the industry, and about being friendly.

When you move inside, sit down next to strangers, and meet them, too; you are here to network and meet new industry colleagues, not to hang out with your crew.

If you travel in a pack of coworkers or old friends, you’ll meet a fraction of the people you’ll meet alone. You don’t need to ignore your acquaintances, and you’ll find lots of time to catch up with them over the typical two or three day conference.

But, if you attend all your sessions and meals with them, you’re missing a great opportunity to connect with a far wider range of contacts. Any one of whom may turn into a great business associate, future partner, or new customer.

Exchange cards with everyone you have substantive conversation with, tell folks about your business (they came to learn and network too, and most want to know what other companies do), and find out about their business too.

Step Up To The Mike

Look for the chance to ask questions of the speaker or panelists. Don’t go to the mike with a sales pitch, but do prepare a one-liner about your company for when you introduce yourself at the start of your question. Smart, relevant questions can say a lot about the person asking, and may well have prospective customers seeking you out in the halls later.

Attend all the conference-related social events. Some diligent souls head off to the phones or their email every time the sessions break, and during the mealtimes or cocktail hours. I’d do the opposite. Skip a less relevant panel to catch up on business, but never miss the sessions designed for mingling. This is your chance to meet, to connect, and to sell.

The Internet business is all about partnerships and connections and your network…. for the salesperson or deal-maker, this is a key benefit of an industry event.

If you attend an Internet conference with selling as one of your goals, these social functions far outrank the content portion — with all due respect to the speakers.

Next week: Post-event follow-up.

Editor’s note: Of course, not all of you can attend all of the major industry conferences. But you can still get the highlights through ClickZ’s coverage of major events. ClickZ’s conference season coverage, written by me, Ann Handley, and Publisher Andy Bourland, gives you the skinny on the conference as it’s occurring. Having us at a conference is indeed the next best thing to you being there….

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