1. Remember that the prospective companies YOU are trying to meet are spending tens of thousands of dollars on booths, travel, entertainment, etc. to meet THEIR prospective clients. So, in everything you do, be respectful of that and you will have a better experience.
        2. NEVER go to booths to prospect on the first day or in the mornings. This is prime time for those exhibitors to see THEIR prospects, and the last thing they want (and you want) is to be talking to them as they see one of their prospects walk by. In that situation, one of two things will happen: 1) they will cut you off and greet their prospect, leaving you standing alone looking silly, or 2) which is even worse, they will keep talking to you as their prospect walks by but will now have developed a resentment towards you for making them miss an opportunity.
        3. Do not be a bag grabber. Don’t go grabbing their swag or give-aways. After all, those materials cost money and are for their prospects. Definitely pick up brochures, especially ones that have global addresses, and as many business cards as you can. Business cards should be the goal—a minimum of 25 cards a day for big shows!
        4. Learn as much as you can about the exhibitors and sponsors weeks before you even leave for the show. Create a target list of companies and notate why you want to speak to them (global footprint, international brand, global products, etc.).
        5. On the first day walk the floor and circle your target companies’ booth locations on the floor map. You will use this when it’s time for you to stop by booths.
        6. Learn about all the after-hour social events. THESE are your BEST opportunities, because, if you don’t have a booth, the next best place to see a lot of people is at these social gatherings. You will need to have your elevator pitch down, but PLEASE don’t say “we’re a translation company that has 140 language pairs.” Rather, understand who you are talking to and customize your value statement, i.e., “We provide language services that help our clients effectively communicate with customers, partners and employees globally,” or “We help companies effectively execute their globalization strategy as well as reach non-English speakers domestically.” Nine out of ten times they will go “huh?”  What does that mean? Then you can share more about translation. Having a compelling elevator message is crucial in social situations, but DO NOT pitch people. Talk about wine, food or sports but not translation—unless you are asked. Remember, you can’t sell anyone in these environments; you need to stay focused on the goal: contact information. Don’t stay at social functions past 11 P.M.; nothing good happens on the road after that! And be on the floor or at the breakfast functions 15 minutes before they start.
        7. Learn about presentations and demonstrations being given, and pick a few to go to during the mornings, especially the first day when you have down time.
        8. There are a few key indicators as to when to start your prospecting. The last hour of each day work your map. It’s ok to stop by booths when the traffic is light. If the aisles are clear, that is your time. It’s important to make notes on the business cards and check off the booth on your map.
        9. The final afternoon (or the last few hours) of the conference, if people are breaking down their booths and you’re running behind, you have to act fast. The last day is prime prospecting time. Hopefully, you have walked the floor several times, and you have your plan mapped out as to how you will have these much-anticipated discussions with your target prospects. And there is a good chance you have seen some of them at the social events. If so, the best intro is, “Weren’t you at___?  I liked it (or I hated it) because___.” Then you follow up with the $100,000 question: “Maybe you can help me (people do like to help other people). Our company provides language service that help our clients effectively communicate with customers, partners and employees globally.” Or “We help companies effectively execute their globalization strategy and reach non-English speakers domestically, and YOUR company has been on my list for some time. WHO WOULD I TALK TO ABOUT HOW YOUR COMPANY MEETS THOSE NEEDS TODAY”? They probably won’t know but may offer to find out and ask for your card. Give it to them, but YOU HAVE TO GET THEIR CARD as well. As soon as you get their card, it’s time to leave and go on to the next booth. But remember to write down as much info as possible, i.e., TT Joe on 4/5/13, 2pm, follow up for contact. (I also like to add personal info, such as sex, age, role, years with company.)
        10. Of course, the delivery of any of this personal contact is key.  Try not to come across as being “salesy.” Be genuine when you ask them about what they do at their respective company. People love to talk about themselves. Find out what their job, role and business unit objectives are, and how long they have been there (someone who has been there 5+ years is a better resource than someone who has been there 5 months). Don’t be overly personal or talkative; ask questions but let THEM talk. And please, whatever you do, DON’T get into industry speak! No one cares about TMS, CMS, translation memory, or what languages you can support. If it ever gets that granular, then you can use case studies or real life examples about how you have helped other customers meet a need or overcome a problem. And remember, 15 MINUTES is the maximum time you should spend talking to one person.
        11. And lastly, but MOST IMPORTANTLY, have a game plan before you ever get on a plane. Strategize with team members and set goals. You need to maximize the return on investment for the trip.
        12. And it goes without saying: always look professional. It is always acceptable to be over-dressed but never underdressed!

If these 12 tips are followed, you will have a successful trade show as an attendee!