Planning your time at exhibitions and conferences:
This is a short post today, and too the point I hope. I have been in companies where the, sales, marketing and R&D guys see the attendance to these events as mandatory, and a "jolly", where manning a stand or exhibit is to be avoided and every night is one big party ? does this ring any bells. I suggest a strategy to get as much value from these events as possible, I have heard engineers come back from these events and be asked by the rest of the staff, so how was it? and they get a 20min discourse on the beer , wine and women, and 5min on the content of the event. These events are primarily a major networking event, and information gathering, you never really make any big sales or sign any deals at these events, the purpose changes when you are a multi million business where , you need to be there, for presence, our you could just break the mold.
Before the event you have a "campaign meeting" set the ground rules, dress code and major objectives, these are the same for any meeting you have. Once you have defined the reason for attending, you select who you can spare for the event, use your own criteria, but the organization should still function at 100% when the attendees are absent. The next step is to list the key contacts you want to make, with suppliers, customers and future customers and give everyone there own targets, and a back up list. The evenings are set aside for customer relationship meals, invite customers, and interested parties, be seen to be organising a meeting not just for your benefit, but also for the attendees, this way you are sure to have people wanting to attend, be personal, give a personal invite. The key is to get key decision makers there in the one room, pick a relaxed venue and make sure your guys are being good hosts,make sure the guests can get back to there accommodation safely.
During the event
Have team briefings daily during the event, over breakfast, away from your accommodation, so you can speak freely, and adjust the plans, as you are updated on progress to your objectives of the campaign. Make sure everyone has a supply of the C-Level guys business cards in the company so if they meet someone interesting , they can get your card in there hands and make sure they get one in return. Include a back from base update, this could by a http://www.skype.com/ conference, a short update to the team back at base on how things are progressing, there and back at the company.
Back from the event
Review reports from all who attended, follow up emails or contacts completed by the first week back. Have an "all hands " meeting to inform the company, how things went, what difference it made to the company, that you attending the event made. Decide if you are going next year.
These events can be good for the company and a good use of resources, or they can be a waste, planning makes the difference.