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Conference & Trade Show Marketing: You’re Missing 80% of Your Opportunities

And they’re back! After 2 years, trade shows are finally returning and companies are eager to get back to business. But, have we forgotten how to do this? Sure, you know the basics: registering, booking a hotel and plane tickets, packing extra business cards, etc. But, how do you get more out of it, especially when you’re head-to-head with the competition?

This is a question we get asked frequently by clients. And, in decades of traveling to Vegas and other various trade shows over the years, I’ve watched the majority of companies miss out on 80 to 90% of their opportunities at those events. Chances are, you’re in this majority, and you don’t even realize what you’re missing. Why? You underestimate the level of preparation needed for success.

Enter what I like to call the 6 P’s: Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

Effective preparation takes discipline, planning, organization, and prioritization. Who do you really need to send? Have you planned it so everyone can be productive? Trade shows are expensive as it is, but even more so when you factor in the opportunity cost of standing around with nothing to do. Make sure you have the right people and that they’re ready.

What do I mean by that exactly? If your calendar isn’t at least 80% booked before you leave for the show — you’re not ready.

Back in the day of faxing, I worked with a guy who would send faxes to everyone months in advance to schedule meeting slots. You see, back then we didn’t have smartphones and all of these forms of instant communication. We couldn’t just send a mass email to all our contacts, or send a message in the conference app. We were forced to prepare.

Get on the phone, send emails, reach out on social media, and fill out your calendar. No — not the day before you leave, and definitely not when you step off the plane at the conference. Plan ahead and set your meetings before the competition beats you to it!

Speaking of smartphones, it’s a little-known fact that every year for the Mobile World Congress, big companies like Samsung start planning the day after the conference, booking space a full year ahead of the event. This creates a cycle of annual planning and allows you to build it into your budget for the year.

Now, this may seem a bit extreme for smaller companies, but there is plenty of planning time in-between the extremes. Find what works for your company, and your budget, and start prepping your team.

Preparation is a team effort. It takes time, patience, and hard work. The level of intense planning required can be likened to a style of basketball coached by former head coach Nolan Richardson. Richardson emphasized pressure defense and fast breaks. His practices were so intense that the first forty minutes were dubbed “40 Minutes of Hell” — which eventually became the moniker for the style of basketball his teams played.

Best known for his tenure at the University of Arkansas, Richardson coached his team to win the 1994 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament and led the Razorbacks to three Final Fours. That’s not to say preparation is all intensity all the time. No, they practiced — as a team — at the intensity that they played. They were prepared to play the game. Are you?

We’ve boiled this all down into a handy checklist to help you be prepared. Click here to download our Conference & Trade Show Success Checklist.