Attending a conference or trade show is likely a part of your job, whether you attend just one or many per year. You’re there to brush up on what’s new, sit in on helpful educational sessions and meet or reconnect with people. And networking is a large part of how you can take full advantage of the opportunity to be there.
Dan Chancey, BOMA Fellow and senior vice president of asset management for Cushman & Wakefield Commercial Advisors, has been attending the BOMA International Conference & Expo for almost 20 years.
“In so many different ways, it keeps me sharp,” he says. “I tell people the networking part is sort of like if you play basketball or tennis with somebody who’s better than you. You’ll still lose, but you’ll play better.”
4 Networking Tips for the Expo Floor
1. Review the floor map beforehand.
There will be more than 200 exhibitors on the BOMA 2019 show floor. Chancey says to save yourself a headache, review the floor map and exhibitor list ahead of time. Plan which company or solution you really want to learn more about. “Don’t overdo it,” Chancey warns. “I’d say 10 is a good number, because you’ll likely get caught up in other stuff that you don’t know about.”
2. Be disciplined with your time.
Don’t waste too much time with small talk. Expo floors are often crowded, so you might not have as much time as you’d like to speak to someone at a booth. Chancey says you shouldn’t be afraid to get straight to the point.
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“I say, ‘I need to find out about XYZ. Two minutes. Let’s go,’” he says. “Now it may go over two minutes, but what that tells them is, ‘Hey, don’t show me necessarily your latest product—show me what I’m looking for in this particular area where I need a solution.’ It’s frank and upfront, but when you do that, if they’re good, they’ll get you the information you need in two minutes. Then you can move on.”
3. Come with questions.
Make sure you engage with whoever is showing you a solution at a booth. Chancey recommends coming with questions—and asking a lot of them. “Push them hard,” he says. “Be critical. And if they’re good, they’ll have good answers. What it shows is you’re trying to be an educated consumer. And if you’re not in the market for something, just tell them that.”
4. Bring a colleague with you to a booth.
If you spot something interesting, ask a colleague to stop by a booth with you. Chancey says the exhibitor will appreciate the extra set of eyes and ears. “At the same time, you’ll get a second opinion from another professional who does what you do,” he explains. “They may ask some questions you didn’t think about while you’re standing there.”
3 General Networking Tips
1. Make time to see people you already do business with.
Face-to-face means a lot when it comes to networking, and those moments are especially important to keep up a good relationship with the people you’re already working with. It’ll also give you the opportunity to explain why you like a product of theirs that you’re using or ask any questions about it.
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“You’re there to say, ‘Hey, how are things at the show? Is there something new you want to show me?’” explains Chancey. “It’s a good time to network with already-known vendors that you have. Then they become partners, and that’s what you want.”
2. Use your social media accounts.
Often, a conference or expo will have a specific hashtag that attendees can use when they share photos or other information about the event on their social media accounts. Look that up ahead of time. The hashtag can get your name out there by bringing you up on other professionals’ feeds.
Tired of acquiring a mountain of business cards? Download the LinkedIn app ahead of the conference. It comes with a “Find Nearby” feature that pulls up the profiles of other LinkedIn users who are nearby and on that page. It’s a great way to connect quickly—without trading business cards you might misplace.
3. Be on the lookout for the unexpected.
Although time management is important when attending BOMA or a similar show, don’t be afraid to get sidetracked by something unexpected. Chancey says just last year a booth showing off megaphones caught his eye. “[The exhibitor] sold me in two minutes,” he recalls. Doing this might not only lead to an unexpected solution, it can take the pressure off the event—and remind you there’s fun to be had among all the work, too.
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