According to vague estimates published in 2011, over 40 million people attend business conferences each year. Since that time, the number of expo participants has increased to over 40 billion, thanks to recent additions to the world’s population and Oracle’s sales roster.
Not surprisingly, today’s exhibits are moving through a dramatic rate of expansion. Dreamforce recently declared independent territory status within the City of San Francisco, instituting a monetary system based on refrigerator magnets, drink tickets, and Wi-Fi passcodes.
With all the hype, distinguishing your product from an ocean of conference competitors can be more problematic than navigating the free coffee station at SAP’s Chill Out Zen Zone. To help you broadcast a clear signal through the confusing noise of the modern-day expo hall, integrate these insider tips for long-lasting awareness and buzz.
Create a Path
We’ve all used the corporate buzz-phrase “Create a Path” as a metaphor for negotiation and building bridges. In this case, build an actual DIY footpath of dirt and pebbles for visitors to traverse their long journey from Princes’ Blvd to your Pot ‘O Cloud-Based Gold near parking lot F. Decorate your Lord of the Rings-inspired passage with signs like “RivenDell Ahead” and “This Way to Swag Baggins.”
Check the Guest List
When potential customers approach your display of video screens and infographics, compare their names to a printed index of attendees highlighted as “key prospects.” After exchanging pleasantries, search the register for your guest, and ask: “Are you a CMO?” If they say yes, ring a loud service bell and yell “WE GOT ONE!!!” If they say no, say nothing. Just look at your shoes until they quietly leave.
Build a Better You
As a conference goer, you can pretend to be anyone you want: a guru, maverick, maven…even the President of the Company. Once you’ve penned-in a job title on your Acer Nike BeachCon lanyard, treat yourself to new headshots with a professional photographer, asking passersby to vote for their favorites on social media with the hashtag #CEO.
After your photo shoot, turn your conference booth into your local gym, complete with a dusty rowing machine, gross water fountain, and dog-eared printout with special hours for Valentine’s Day. Ask onlookers for a spot while you deadlift a pair of Samsung monitor boxes. Follow this with a dozen push-ups, one for each deal you’ll close by 5.
Demo Other Products
Reverse the trend of selling your own solutions by demonstrating products unrelated to your business. For example, upstage the Symantec story with a live demonstration of the Halo Master Chief Collection. Invite the crowd to post comments to the Spartan Assault user group, and host a VR fireside chat debating the benefits of updating your Avatar to “Ghost Closer 1.” If questioned by your boss, simply ask for more Cheetos.
Be the Customer Whisperer
With Billy Joel blasting hits like We Didn’t Start the FireWire at TeleCompTech 2017, expos can be louder than rocket launches. Pull interest and focus by speaking softly so you can barely be heard. For example, whisper: “Hi, my name’s Sandy. Billy Joel’s great, I hope he plays A Matter of Customer Trust. Tell me: what problem are you looking to solve?”
If all else fails and you still can’t get noticed, produce an interactive recording of your new eBook, “Talk More, Listen Less.” People are sure to pay attention.
Originally published in Canadian Business magazine.