4 Tips That Will Improve Your Networking at Tradeshows and Industry Events


Make the most of your time at tradeshows, industry events, and just about anywhere else.

4 Tips That Will Improve Your Networking Skills

Whether you are at a conference, in a meeting, on the phone, at an airport, or on a bus – there is always time for you to be promoting your business…the right way.

If your current networking isn’t producing the kind of results you’d like to see, you may want to give your approach a refresh. Here are four simple tips that will improve your networking efforts:

1) Be Interested in the Other Person

This is a key takeaway for all aspects of networking and should be your number one priority.

Make your encounter about the person to whom you are speaking and not about you.

This is not a hard one to implement.

When you meet someone for the first time, find out what they are interested in and what brought them to this spot.

If you are at a trade show – ask the person why they are attending, and what they hope to gain from being at this particular show. If possible, take it a step further and offer whatever help you can to assist them.

It’s great if you use this approach with someone you may see as a prospect, but don’t just reserve it for those with whom you’d like to do business!

2) Make Connections, Even If They Don’t Directly Benefit You

At one trade show, I met a college student who was there just to learn more about the industry. She was a chemical engineer interested in robotics and additive manufacturing. I spent 10-15 minutes talking to her about her career goals and path after graduation.

Before parting, I let her know that if she needed any help after college to send me her resumé, and I would be glad to help her with networking. It was 15 minutes out of my day, with no real benefit on my part other than meeting someone new and potentially helping her with her career.

But I made a connection and that was worthwhile.

At any event – tradeshow, conference, mixer, etc. – you have the chance to meet people and make connections. They may not be connections directly related to your business, but you may have the chance to introduce colleagues that could benefit from knowing each other.

This happens when you have the mindset of being interested in people; in what they do, and in what interests them.

Sometimes you are able to help someone along their path, and sometimes there is a connection that helps both of you in a business setting.

It is one way that I help my current clients. I meet people who are experts in their field, and I am able to connect them or send a resumé along.

If you take the position that it is not about you first and that you are simply being helpful, many times what can happen is that, perhaps down the line, there is an interest and or need that will mesh with your offerings.

This can and will lead to a meaningful interaction that can result in some type of business interaction.

Making connections, whether for yourself or even two other parties, will improve your networking efforts overall.

Meaningful Interactions Download

3) Plan to Meet People and Network

When you are attending an industry trade show or exhibition, it is absolutely necessary that you plan ahead in order to meet with people. You can’t expect to walk into a venue hosting thousands and create solid meaningful interactions that produce qualified leads if you haven’t planned properly.

For my work, when I attend a show I am primarily visiting with clients who are presenting. However, I do use this as an opportunity to meet with prospects and hopefully walk away with qualified leads.

In order to do this, I prepare for my time there by calling ahead to exhibitors that I know will be attending. I’m up-front and to-the-point about the purpose of the call and the services we can offer.

If appropriate, I may also connect ahead of a show using LinkedIn to message with those I know will be attending. This method will generally garner a 3-5% success rate, but I usually see a return of closer to 5-10%.

4) Take Advantage of Chance Encounters

This is a tip to follow no matter where you are, whether at an event with a targeted audience, or in a restaurant, hotel lobby, or airport. I have found business success through chance encounters and I believe it’s because I am willing to show an interest in another person.

While at a trade show I always reserve time to walk around and see what’s new. I am looking to see what new tech is out there, which companies are exhibiting, and generally exploring. Those at the booths are looking for people who are doing just that.

When an exhibitor approaches me I make it very clear from the start that my purpose for being at the event is visiting my clients and that I‘m not necessarily a prospect. The next step is that an exhibitor will ask me what I do. I briefly explain that my company specializes in B2B lead generation for complex sales.

Many times that opens up a conversation that leads to good things. I have developed new business many times through a chance encounter with someone at a show who is actually looking for services like ours.

Want to Improve Your Networking ROI? Keep an Open Mind And Be Interested.

Be interested in who you are talking to, sitting next to, bumping into. Ask about their life, business, goals, etc. If it turns into a conversation about your business or a mutual opportunity, so be it – but don’t make that the major focus.

Make sure you are approaching your chance encounters with networking in mind, not sales; there is plenty of time for that down the road.

In March I will be attending HIMSS Global Exhibition and Conference. It is one of the largest conferences in the country for healthcare IT, an industry in which we specialize.

In addition to setting appointments ahead of time, I look forward to the chance encounters and networking opportunities that will no doubt present themselves. If you will also be attending and would like to connect, please contact me here.

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Originally published in 2016, this blog has been edited and updated in February 2020.