Schmooze It Up: 5 Steps to Networking Like a Pro at Trade Shows


We’ve heard what you had to say (both good and bad) about trade shows and we’ve even given a few pointers for setting yourself up to be as successful as possible. One thing we’ve yet to cover is the social aspect of exhibiting at a trade show: networking.

No matter how beautifully your booth is set up or how fantastic your product is, it’s unlikely that attendees will simply fall into your lap, purchase order and all, if you don’t make an effort to engage. No pressure though, because we’ve come up with 5 sure-fire steps to get you out there and networking like a pro in no time.

We’re sorry to say, trade shows are neither the time nor the place to be shy. You’re not there to chit chat, you – and everyone else – are there to work. Keep that in mind and keep your head in the game. Trust us, the more people you talk to, the better it is for you and your business. However, don’t just talk for talking’s sake. Make sure that every conversation you have results in gathering more information that can help improve your business while ultimately educating visitors on your product.

For many brand owners, trade shows are their one and only opportunity to get serious face time with the people who can truly help their businesses grow. According to CEIR, “90% of trade show attendees have not met face-to-face with any companies exhibiting at the show in the 12 months prior to the event.” We all know trade shows are an expensive investment, so why not make good on your money by keeping the time-wasting to a minimum and really targeting your audience? Many people go to trade shows with the aim of gaining general information – this is a mistake. Keep a laser focus and be especially selective about who it is you’re spending your time conversing with. Focused on retailers but a consultant wants a moment of your time? Politely decline – after all, it may be your last chance to speak to a retailer for a long while.

On average, trade shows like SuperZoo and NRF rake in around 15,000 and 33,000 attendees respectively. That’s a lot of people! The only way not to get completely overwhelmed by every detail of the (very) many people you’ll likely meet is by taking notes and tons of them. Try to remember something unique about each person. For example, you may meet a Hubba representative wearing distinctive orange sneakers – jot that down so that they’re easier to recall later!

Last year, 46% of those with executive buying power made purchase decisions while attending a show. Want to make sure you are a part of that lucky percentage of exhibitors with an order placed in the comfort of your booth? Close a deal on the spot, if possible. If there’s one thing every good sales person knows, it’s that when a consumer is in the ‘moment’ is when they’re most prone to take action. Don’t let that moment slip away and certainly don’t let a prospective buyer out of your sight! If opportunity knocks, seal the deal.

What happens if you haven’t closed the deal with someone? All is not lost. As soon as the show is over make sure to follow-up right away. The more time you let pass, the less likely they are to remember who you are and what you’ve discussed. Even if they’ve left your booth with some great swag, they’re unlikely to touch base once the thrill of the show is over. Call, email or do whatever you need to to get in touch and (hopefully) stay in touch!

Keep these 5 key steps in mind the next time you’re at a trade show and hoping to charm your way into a successful deal!