5 Reasons Local Trade Shows Are Excellent Networking Opportunities

by Pat Hammond on Saturday, May 05, 2018

Tracy Soper Hatch and Amanda Schneck
Tracy Soper Hatch and Amanda Schneck, Photo Allegra Boverman Photography

Have you ever been to a national convention? Workshops and talks by renowned experts, hundreds of vendor booths, cocktail receptions, and awards dinners. Forty hours of activity crammed into two or three days. You eat, drink, and skip sleep and by the time you get over the jet lag, it's time to go home.

Yeah, it can be fun to get out of town on the company dime, but what do you really get from it?

Twenty years ago it may have been your one chance to hear an industry leader introduce a game-changing theory, but we live in the era of TED Talks and webinars. Not only can you hear the lecture on demand from the comfort of your own office, you have a much better chance of asking questions and connecting to your industry hero online than you do in a room filled with 500 people.

So what is the point?

Most small business owners do business in their own communities. They don't need to meet Hope from Iowa or John from Seattle. What they do need are connections to local sources for supplies, production, and delivery. They are looking for new clients and partners who can help them right here in their own region.

The fact is the real value of trade shows and expos is the opportunity to network.

  • Reconnect with old contacts
  • Meet online connections in the real world
  • Generate leads & create new alliances
  • Develop new product ideas
  • Circumvent  Gatekeepers

We get so caught up in daily activities that we don't have time to grab a coffee or shoot off an email to people we don't see every day. Big events like conferences and trade shows are a super way to step away from normal routines and reconnect with those old contacts.

Sometimes people forget that the whole point of gathering social media friends is to network. Expos and conventions are an easy way to meet online connections in the real world. Simply reach out to a few people you know from LinkedIn or another social network, find out if they are going to the same event and arrange to meet for lunch or drinks.

Whether you are meeting colleagues or looking for potential clients, conferences are an excellent place to generate leads and build new alliances.

Along the same line, large events are also a great way to brainstorm new products and services.

All you need to do is talk to people and listen. Most people are happy to tell you about their pain points and if you're hearing the same issue over and over, there's a good chance the solution would make a great new product. Even better, since you solved their specific problem they are more likely to take your call or set up a meeting when it comes time to sell.

The last reason trade shows are such excellent networking opportunities is because they open sticky doors.

Have you ever had a hard time getting past the gatekeeper to reach the decision maker?

Try to corner them at a local tradeshow.

Unlike a national event with thousands of attendees, a company booth at a local tradeshow gives you the opportunity to have face to face conversations with people inside the organization. Even if it's not the person you're trying to reach, they can probably get you an introduction if not a direct line to the buyer.

People go to local expos to see and be seen. They go with the expectation of making and hearing sales pitches which makes it both more frenetic and less stressful than a standard networking event. (Hint: You don't have to worry about sounding like you're trying to sell something when the person in front of you is practically begging for you to sell.)

An event at the Center of NH may not be as sexy as a national convention in Las Vegas, but local expos, trade shows, and conventions can be like hitting a networking jackpot and if you do it right you will walk away with the connections, leads, and ideas you need to take your business to the next level.

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