The dust is slowly settling on some of the tech industry’s biggest annual events, Mobile World Congress and CeBIT. From global behemoths to disruptive startups, thousands of businesses showcased exciting new devices, solutions and technologies with the hope of staking their claim for customer hearts, minds and wallets.
But look beyond the glitzy launches for a moment, however, and you’ll find the real lifeblood of shows like MWC and CeBIT. Over 100,000 attendees from 200+ countries passed through the doors of MWC between 22nd and 25th February. And, although the figures aren’t out yet, it’s expected that more than 200,000 people made their way to Hanover for CeBIT at the end of March. With this many business leaders, IT professionals, journalists and delegates crossing paths, relationships were inevitably formed. Surely that’s where the true value of large trade shows lies?
This was neatly summed up by our client BroadSoft:
“We see events like MWC as a great way to condense a large number of meetings for our executives into just a few days. In effect, it saves us one quarter of executive travel – not a bad return on investment!”
So business cards have been exchanged and promises made to keep in touch, but now is the time that those relationships will be put to the test. Will they overcome the challenge of time and distance, or will they become a memory of ‘what might have been’? This all depends on how those brief encounters at trade shows are nurtured afterwards…
Here are a few useful hints and tips to convert trade show networking into meaningful relationships:
1. Don’t take too long to get in touch
There’s no prize to be gained by playing it cool and waiting for them to contact you. The more time goes by the harder you will be to remember, and the more other priorities get in the way.
2. Get straight to the point and be thick-skinned
Start by mentioning the event or situation you met, to distinguish you from a cold caller. Don’t be disappointed if you are not remembered straight away, as they may have met a lot of people at the show and might not be as organised as you. Also, there’s a chance your enthusiasm won’t be reciprocated. Which leads me to…
3. Don’t come on too strong
A couple of follow up calls or emails, spread out over a few weeks is okay. Daily and increasingly aggressive ‘chasers’ are certainly not okay. Don’t be THAT guy. You’re better than that.
4. Be creative and show them that they’ve been on your mind
Think back to the conversations you had at the trade show, and show them that you were listening by personalising your follow up. Whether it’s a mail order delivery, or simply a reference to a shared interest think creatively about how to turn the meeting into something more meaningful.
5. Don’t be too quick to judge
Even if people you meet don’t seem interesting on first sight you should still follow up. You never know where their career will lead them to next.
6. ‘If you have chemistry you only need one other thing… Timing… but timing is a bitch’
Wise words from one of the characters in comedy show How I Met Your Mother, and equally applicable to the business world. Even if an immediate opportunity doesn’t arise, it’s always worth keeping in touch.
Although I am sure there are many other great tips out there, I give these my full support. After all, they proved pretty useful to me after I met my now wife, and the mother of our daughter at Mobile World Congress in 2009!