They say you can never make a second impression twice. And in this day and age, why would you need to? All it takes to make the most of that first in-person meeting is a little strategic planning and a reliable set of tools. Taking hints from the dating site sector, which has grown explosively in the last decade, here are three “dos” for every vendor hoping to make the most of her next big industry event.
Put your best face forward
The first step — and the hardest by far — is to figure out how you want to present yourself to the world. What are your strengths and why should someone, whether it’s a potential spouse or a future customer, pick you? Coming up with a good, honest answer isn’t easy. In fact, 22% of online daters ask their friends to help them pen their profiles (and countless others turn to professional Profile Pimpers who specialize in bringing out their clients’ better qualities).
Small businesses attending major events face the same challenge. Standing out in a crowd, especially when that crowd includes some of the biggest players in your industry, is difficult — but it’s not impossible! Build off your brand, your company’s backbone, to design compelling visuals and strong language that tells your story. Don’t rule out the possibility of getting an outside opinion. Companies often hire image consultants or marketing specialists to help them present their best face to the world. Whether you do it alone or with assistance, what matters is that you communicate a clear message about who you are.
« Build off your brand, your company’s backbone, to design compelling visuals and strong language that tells your story. »
All this self-reflection and communication work may sound cumbersome — it takes time to put together a solid online profile or language suited for an event website or press packet — but on the big day, all this preliminary work will come in handy. You’ll be able to whip out responses to probing questions or deftly describe the value-add your business can promise its customers.
Set your eyes on the prize
Once you know who you are and how you want to present yourself, it’s time to establish your strategy. Figure out who you are looking for and why. Hoping to snag someone who shares your passion for the circus arts? Perhaps you want a companion who’s scientologically aligned and can recite all the lines from Mission Impossible? Or maybe you’re just looking to find friends in a new city. Whatever your motives, setting your success criteria at the outset — when you’ve still got your wits about you — will help keep you focused while weeding through the digital sea of possibilities, and it’ll up your chances of making a match.
Similarly, if you are thinking about participating in a large industry event, be clear about your expectations. Are you hoping to garner attention from a prospective client segment? Make contacts in a new market? Achieve certain sales targets with existing customers? Each of these reasons is valid, but requires a certain kind of investment and preparation. Knowing what your objectives are will allow you put the right team and tools in place on the big day to achieve your goals.
« Once you know what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to easily assess which event is right for you. »
Knowing who you’re looking for will also help you determine where to look. After all, when it comes to both dating websites and trade shows, no two are exactly alike and the choices are (nearly) endless. Just as the brazen attitude of adopteunmec.com differs wildly from the more mature voice of match.com, events targeting the same sector vary significantly. Size, city, site, content strategy, planned activities, entry fees: these factors have an impact not only on who participates but also on how they participate.
Certain events encourage interaction between vendors and visitors, creating a dynamic energy and an opportunity for collaboration. Others are much more passive; an ideal strolling ground and perfect for passive observation. Once you know what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to easily assess which event is right for you.
With your profile set up and a clear idea of who you’re looking for, it’s time to get started. Peruse profiles and swipe right as long as it feels right. Sooner rather than later, you’ll get a positive response. Of course, there’s no correct way to prepare for a first date (although plenty of articles would have you believe otherwise). What counts is that you feel comfortable and you’re ready to show up on the big day as your best self.
Companies preparing for a big industry event, however, don’t get off so easily. Once you’ve registered, the real work begins. Lock up everything on the home front: your website, your social media accounts, your sales pitch. Your participation in this event may bring some (or lots of) extra attention, and you want to be sure that your team is ready for it.
Take a moment to look through the event’s communication materials, identifying the participants you’d like to connect with and the activities you know you want to participate in. Design the visit that will be the most meaningful for you. It will be difficult to step away from your stand, but making time to walk around and see what your competitors or future collaborators have to offer (or simply leaving space for the unexpected to occur) is essential.
And of course, think about the kind of experience you want to provide visitors: will it help you attract that target customer? Does it serve your stated objectives? Is it consistent with your brand? If “yes” is the answer to all of those questions, grab the materials you need and head on out: you’re ready to make a great first impression — and you’ll only need to do it once.
(1)eharmony.com, 10 Online Dating Statistics You Should Know, https://www.eharmony.com/online-dating-statistics/