An exciting part of being at The Hoffman Agency is that at any level—from junior to senior—you’ll have opportunities to attend trade shows and events, from the niche to the grand scale. To get the most out of attending, you need to prepare. Liam Rawson, Account Director & Media Strategist, gives some hints, tips and learnings.
What would you say is a good first step in prepping for an event?
Understand what your goals are for attending. Knowing what you want to get out of being there will inform how you prepare and help ensure those goals can be achieved. My main goal was to reconnect with contacts, meet brands that interested me personally and network.
Some beneficial professional activities include going through exhibitors—look at what type of clients are of interest and identify those that fit your own expertise. These events are opportunities to build personal relationships with brands and vendors, so go through the event’s hashtag on LinkedIn, Twitter and so on, and look at which journalists and other people of interest you can expect to see there.
What have you found to be the best approach for securing meetings?
I’ll always say, where possible, try setting up meetings in advance. The people you want to meet or see, it’s quite challenging to pinpoint them on the ground. Particularly with large-scale events, it can be difficult and time consuming to locate the companies and people you want to speak with. Scheduling in advance means you’re already aware of the exact location and time you’ve locked in with them.
After looking through an event hashtag, try reaching out to attendees of interest. If available, the attendee media list from the previous year can also be a way to check-in with people to see if they’ll be attending the upcoming one as well. And make sure to download and use the event app well in advance.
How do you identify the key panels/workshops that you decide to attend?
For me, it’s simply a matter of personal interest, whether that be speakers and companies I’m familiar with or even those I have limited prior knowledge of but still sound interesting. I’ll also seek out panels and workshops where the topic is relevant to my existing clients.
Any tips for how to make the most out of time spent there?
Remember that you’re there to network (you’re there to talk, you can’t just walk around and be shy), and you’re there to learn, so listen to the panel sessions and ask for demos on-stand.
To make the most of these events, you need to make an effort to ask questions to exhibitors and speakers. Questions like what they do or what they provide, what talks they’ve attended, and general thoughts on the event so far. If not, you will essentially become a window shopper, passively walking by, looking at things and not maximising your time there.
For making new connections, don’t be afraid to chat in the queues, introduce yourself to people seated next to you in the auditorium, or, most notably, find local pubs after the event, given attendees are likely to gather there. Ultimately, you can take any opportunity in and around the event to network, even if it’s not in an official space for this.
How do you determine what to wear? Have you come across specific dress codes?
You can check the vibe or dress code—if there is one—of the event by looking at photos from the previous year.
Even where photos aren’t available, speaking with previous attendees, including others from Hoffman, or a quick search of the question online can inform how best to dress for the event. The other thing to keep in mind for large-scale events is you’ll likely be on your feet for quite some time, so comfortable shoes are ideal.
Any advice for maintaining new connections post-show?
I’d say it’s a case of being active on social media and engaging with content. Of course, you can utilise any conversations in person and use LinkedIn messages or emails to continue these. Aside from that, also be sure to ‘stalk’ appropriately and see where there are opportunities to meet again at another event or events that the person and their company might be hosting.
Overall, what do you love most about attending events?
Trade show events can be a truly fascinating experience. Many companies that I saw personally intrigued me. Moreover, I didn’t know they existed before the event, nor did I know their specific type of tech was out there.
There’s lots to see, lots to experience and lots to take away from trade show events, so make the most of your time there and enjoy!