June 24, 2018

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10 Tips for Working a Trade Show

Nothing feels more like Christmas morning than attending an industry trade show or conference. Considering the hundreds of potential candidates and employers under one roof – plus the vast amount of information floating around the hall – it’s easy to grasp the enormity of the gift.

Some of my most enduring relationships and memorable placements had their genesis in a crowded booth, an entry foyer or food court in a Chicago, Houston or Cleveland convention center. And over time, I’ve found ways to organize my time and exploit the opportunities found in a trade show’s frenetic, networking-friendly environment. Here are 10 ways to get the most out of your visit:

  1. Do your homework. Before you arrive, prepare a list of people you want to see and booths you’d like to visit.

  2. Pay your respects to old friends. Be sure to greet the people you’ve spoken with in the past, including candidates, employers and industry insiders.

  3. Make friends with the sponsors. Trade shows are underwritten and organized by publishers, associations, companies or special interest groups. Take a moment to thank them for their contribution to the industry.

  4. Travel light. Five hours on your feet can get tiring, so leave your laptop, briefcase or six-inch heels in the car or in your hotel room.

  5. Avoid the trinkets and trash. Promotional items such as logo-embossed coffee mugs, T-shirts and refrigerator magnets will weigh you down and accelerate fatigue.

  6. Gather contact information. This is your chance to pick up business cards and build your email list. Remember, your primary goal at a trade show is to gather fresh leads and advertise your brand.

  7. Distribute collateral material. Hand out business cards or lightweight brochures to everyone you meet. If you have an image that can be shared quickly on a tablet computer or smart phone, have it ready for viewing.

  8. Float like a butterfly. Everyone’s time is in short supply, so don’t linger too long with any one person. Save your in-depth conversations for later.

  9. Keep your presentation simple, as in, “I’m Bill Radin, and I’m a recruiter specializing in our industry. I’m here to visit with old friends and meet new ones. Do you have a business card?”

  10. Jump on hot tips. For example, if someone mentions an open position, probe for information, as in, “Who would I talk to about that?” or “Why is the job open?”

Here's an advanced tactic is to be more aggressive and less passive when interacting with people. Instead of simply stating your name and occupation, you might consider making a sales or marketing presentation that relates to something you're working on.

For example, if you happen to meet a president or director-level person at his or her booth, go ahead and pitch a candidate, as in, “You know, I met some someone who could increase sales at your company. He’s currently working for a direct competitor, but mentioned your organization as one he’d like to join. Is this a person you might like to meet?”

Or, if you meet a mid-level candidate, you could pitch a job, as in, “I just took on a new search assignment with one of your company’s competitors. Tell me: are you the sort of person who might want to look at a challenging, but rewarding position?” And if the answer is yes, you can continue the conversation. If the answer is no, you can begin to gather names.

And so it goes. A day at a trade show is like a month on the phone. Pound for pound, it yields the highest return on a relatively short investment of time.

- Bill Radin

Bill Radin is one of the most popular and highly regarded trainers in the recruiting industry, and has trained many of the largest independent and franchised recruiting organizations, including Management Recruiters, Dunhill, Sanford Rose, Snelling and Fortune Personnel. His speaking engagements include the NAPS national conference, the annual Kennedy Conference, and dozens of state association meetings and network conventions, including Top Echelon and The Radin Report is published monthly.