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How to Work the Exhibition Floor

By Cassie Shankman

We’ve all been there — resumé in hand, business cards in your back pocket, toothy grin on your face. It’s the dreaded or not-so dreaded exhibition floor. This is the meeting ground for sales deals, friends, competitors, losers, and winners. As a seasoned convention/conference exhibitor and attendee, I have encountered my fair share of stories and lessons learned.

So how exactly do you rock an exhibition floor? Whether you’re an exhibitor looking for new clients or an attendee looking for a new job, follow these five steps and you’re bound to get what you came for.

1. Do your research.

Being in the know will lead you to success. Know your competitors, new friends, old friends, and potential leads. Research the exhibitors, speakers, and events prior to attending the conference. This will not only help alleviate stress and unnecessary anxiety during your visit, it will also keep you on the path you set out to achieve. Make note of who you want to connect with and plan accordingly. Of course there will always be surprises, but at least you’ll be confident in your ways.

2. A smile is really worth a thousand words.

When they say smiling is infectious, they really mean it, so make an impression that will last. You want to be the friendly, approachable one who people can relate to and count on. It can be nerve-wracking walking up to someone you’ve never met, but smiling exudes confidence, poise, and character, which is something that the people you meet will remember. Just don’t forget to clean those teeth.

3. Attend the afterparties your target list is attending.

Find out which afterparties your target list of influencers are attending and then go to them. Being seen and partaking in meaningful conversation will put you in the same social circle as your hit list. Make sure to come with three conversation topics so that you’re not just left saying, “Hi! My name is XYZ and your presentation was great. Here’s my business card. Hope to see you around.” You’ll be seen as an intellectual who is not coming to network per se, but rather to engage in conversation and have an enjoyable time.

4. Remember everyone you meet.

You don’t want to be the one who has met so many people but forgets everyone’s name. I know we’ve all been in that situation at least once where we’ve just met someone and immediately forget their name. They’re not wearing a name tag, and then your friend Johnny comes by and greets you and you’re left standing hoping the person you’ve been talking to will introduce themselves. It’s very admirable and memorable when a person I meet remembers my name and vice versa. As a potential client or customer, it makes me feel special. If you don’t have a great memory, then try to associate names with relatable events or items in your life.

5. Lather, rinse, repeat.

You’ve done your rounds, don’t be shy to come back and say hi or goodbye to familiar people you see during the rest of the conference. Make sure you’ve given your business cards out or have at least received the equal from your new contacts. Then, when you’re home, email and reach out to those whom you’ve met and extend the conversation beyond the exhibition hall. Keep in touch with them on social media, email, and/or newsletters, but don’t overwhelm them. Make sure you’re still approachable and that real person they met on the floor.

Follow me on Twitter @cashankman or my company’s blog Picardy

Thanks to Hermes Camacho.