Networking appears to be one of those skills that either you have, or you don’t, and this is complete baloney. Regardless of how network savvy you think you are, there is always something you can improve on. Whether you are dealing with consumers, working with clients, or dealing with your own fellow workers, these networking skills are always going to come to the fore in certain circumstances, and trade shows are one of those. Networking with a certain amount of finesse can be all you need to acquire a new contract, new customer, or the bare bones of either. So, what are the tricks to making it an effective skill in the trade show scenario?
Image Is Everything
This is always the first thing to address, and this doesn’t just count for your personal image, but the image of your business. This means that you need trade show displays that are going to attract people to your booth, but this is only half of the equation. In trying to attract people to your booth, you need to be open and receptive. This means approaching customers and clients with an open attitude. This is a very difficult thing to get right, but to give yourself that oeuvre of being open, think of a few key questions you would like to ask people to get a conversation going. And these can include questions like “what has brought you here?” the more information you can get at the outset, the easier it is to develop a rapport later on. But people make their decisions based on the image you present, it’s shallow, but it’s true.
Friendliness: The Essential Skill
Have you ever had a conversation with someone when you get the feeling that they are looking over your shoulder for someone more interesting to come along? It’s got to be one of the most frustrating things about networking. So, when you are developing these conversations with people, it’s important to do one thing, listen. There’s nothing worse than talking to someone who has an ulterior motive because you can sense this. And don’t think that they cannot sense this in you! So, look at developing your overall friendliness. This means listening and reacting appropriately. In addition to this, you are going to get more information from someone who is locked into conversation with you, so the more friendly you are, the more people let their guard down.
Networking is useless if you don’t follow up these new connections. It’s not essential to call them straight after the event, but because of tools like LinkedIn, it’s never been easier to develop a connection with someone and build on this relationship. Following up a contact after the event is probably more important than the actual event itself. This is where you can start to really pick their brains, and if they don’t reply to your olive branch of communication, there’s no love lost. You’ve learnt a valuable lesson in how to network, and you can tweak your approaches ready for the next trade show.
Networking doesn’t have to be something that fills you with dread; it’s just about picking an open and honest approach.
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