Knowing people at trade shows is worth the effort


If you’ve attended a trade show in San Diego and watched television in your off hours you may have seen humorous commercials for King Stahlman Bail Bonds, whose slogan is: “It’s better to know me and not need me than to need me and not know me.”

At trade shows the goal is to stay out of supplier trouble rather than legal trouble, but King Stahlman’s slogan is still applicable.

Trade shows allow the visitor to know the vendor and may also allow the vendor to build a relationship with the visitor.

Here are some tips:

Vendor booth giveaways don’t necessarily mean pens, coffee mugs, calendars, or chocolate. In many cases vendors give away brochures and business cards.

That can actually be more of a networking tool than the other giveaways.  Viewing the business cards first creates the opportunity to comment “so you’re out of . . .”

Although a vendor’s primary objective is to provide a product or service description, such a conversation creates more memorable interaction.

A related aspect is that international vendors may recognize your skills if you can convert English system measurements to metric measurements on the spot.

The phrase “I live about 15 miles – about 25 kilometers – from here” shows a recognition of their measurements while showing your ability not only to respect their numerical culture but also to translate.

Talking centigrade during weather discussions also has this effect, although sometimes omitting the Fahrenheit number is better.

The other giveaways can also be used to create enhanced conversation.

If you’re at a trade show a couple of time zones east of where you live, noting that chocolate in the morning helps you stay awake for a conference which began at 6:00 a.m. your time allows for a more personal conversation than a pure business interaction.

Some of the giveaways are toys, and noting the ages of your children or grandchildren also makes you more personal to the vendor, who may discuss his or her own family and enhance that relationship between potential vendor and potential customer.

Even if you have no plans to purchase a product or service at the current year’s trade show, meeting the vendors gives you options for future years.  If you know them and don’t need them, you eliminate the future risk of needing them and not knowing them..