A trade show is an organized event for companies in a specific industry to showcase and demonstrate their latest products and services, meet with industry partners and customers, study activities of rivals, and examine recent market trends and opportunities. What this means for photographers is that if you're in the niche of the trade show this is your chance to be face to face and rub shoulders with the big names in your industry. To fully maximize the network and contacts you can make from these events you need a game plan and some guidelines to follow. These are my personal five tips to maximize your networking at a trade show.
Plan Your Day
This point is essential to keep yourself from aimlessly wandering and wasting time at the event. Usually you can find maps of all the vendors onsite or online. This will list all the companies that are attending and have their location all in one place. Now, what I do personally is the night prior I figure out which vendors I’m going to make it a point to visit and list them down in a notebook with their location. Being organized and efficient is going to make hectic shows like this a little easier to navigate and less hectic.
Make Sure You Have Something to Offer
It’s easy to go into these things and pitch yourself to every vendor, but that’s a waste of time if you have nothing to offer these companies. For example, I specialize in outdoor lifestyle and adventure so going and pitching to a coffee company that doesn't market to that demographic is just going to waste both of our time. This takes us back to step one when you plan your day make sure to take this into consideration.
Don’t go into a booth blind. That’s a recipe for disaster or an awkward conversation. That means that you should know what the vendor you’re talking to stands for and the products they are currently marketing. Also, have questions that you want to ask nailed down before approaching the booth. This will ensure you can keep the conversations flowing nicely and having that knowledge will give you more to talk about.
The ultimate goal in networking is exactly that: building a network. Don't barge into a booth throwing business cards and elevator pitches to everyone you see. Be interested in who they are and what they do in the company. Even if they might not be interested in using you for work right now, you never know what connections you’re going to find by being associates with the individuals of these companies.
This is, in my opinion, the most important part of the experience and that’s to just be yourself and be genuine. These companies are at this show for a reason and just being a genuine person will make you stand out from the crowds of people pitching to these companies. They’ll get a better feel for who you are and what you stand for as a professional. The longer and longer that I've been in this industry I find that true meaningful relationships will take you further than almost anything beside talent.