You could say I am on an expo high. I just returned from my first exhibition at the NetVU16 Conference, a conference for Vertafore users. Vertafore is a company that provides the insurance industry with technology solutions to better prepare for success. What does this mean? Essentially it means I went to an insurance conference. Here are the things I learned:
18 Things I Learned at my First Insurance Expo
#1: Where you are in the expo matters.
There are some theories that being positioned on the right side of the exhibition hall is better than being positioned on the left side. Theories say this is because we are trained to drive on the right side of the road and walk on the right side of the hallway.
Bad news: Sometimes you can’t choose where your booth is. Worse news: Sometimes you chose wrong. Good news: You have control of how your booth is set up. #2: Make your booth approachable.
#3: Giant tables that create a barrier between you and the attendees are not approachable. #4: Sitting in a chair behind that table isn’t either.
What is approachable? #5: Swag. Free swag. Don’t have any free swag to give away? What about a picture? We had a jet pack at our booth. A big shiny smoke-blowing jet pack that attendees could wear like a backpack. Did they get to take it home? No. Did we take a picture of them and print it out? Yes.
#6: People might not want your free goodie. But a picture of their experience? Or their drunk co-worker’s experience? Oh yes.
#7: Mini tip: When you take pictures of people in your booth, a crowd starts to gather. This blocks the walkway for people and they are forced to stop at your booth to see what is going on. Works pretty well.
#8: People flock towards business card bowls. You know, those fishbowls where people drop their business card in to win a free prize. These are huge at trade shows. They are great way to collect information from people. Don’t have a business card bowl? Don’t have any swag? Don’t have a jet pack? It’s okay. People like to be noticed. #9: Use a smile to reel people in.
Did someone turn down your smile? Or walk past you so fast they didn’t even let you finish your sentence? #10: Continue to smile. How you act when a person walks right by you is vital to how the next person will approach you.
#11: Know your stuff. #12: Or fake it well. My go-to strength (which I found out on day 2) was letting the customer do all the heavy lifting. Let me fill you in on the product we were selling: an software solution for agencies that simplifies their surety bond process. Don’t know what a surety bond is? Read this.
Back to #12: Instead of having the attendees ask about the product, which put me in a crunch to quickly decide which ‘pitch to use’ (as in: Who is this person? Which pitch would be best? Do they even know what a surety bond is?), I started the conversation like so:
“Hi, how are you doing? First time at NetVU?”
Yes? Continue with “Awesome, how are you enjoying the conference so far?”
They answer “I love it or I hate it” then steer the conversation towards what they do: “So what do you do when you aren’t here in San Antonio? Oh, you work for an agency? Do you guys do much surety?” Then lead into the surety product from there.
If they answer no to the initial question, lead into what they do with something like this: “Wow, a seasoned attendee! What do you do that brings you to the conference year after year? Oh, you work for an agency? Do you guys do much surety?” One foot in the bag.
#13: The handiest item at our booth: a pen. Don’t have a pen? #14: Go steal a free one from your neighbor who is giving out free pens. Jotting down a little memo about the person/their company on the back of their business card can help with follow up. #15: Impress the people who visit your booth by jotting down something on their card before they walk away. “Emily, it was so nice to meet you. Thanks for stopping by. I’m making a note to send you some of that specific information about xyz right now. Expect it in your inbox a few days after the conference is over.”
#16: Tear-down is just as important as set-up. We did the heavy lifting ourselves and saved a fortune.
#17: Shipping to someone who lives close to the expo/convention center saves you mega bucks as well. Shipping to a convention center is extremely expensive. Sometimes you aren’t fortune enough to know someone who lives close to where the trade show convention center is located. #18: Collect enough business cards and maybe you’ll be in luck for next year.