Top 10 Things to Bring to a Business Convention to Increase Your Networking Value
The summer and fall are both very active seasons for conventions and trade shows in every industry. When it comes to the restoration, remediation, and cleaning industries, everything from The Experience in Vegas to the ISSA Show North America in Chicago serve as exciting and enriching opportunities for business leaders. However, one missed opportunity or unpacked item can quickly transform these fun festivities into networking nightmares.
That’s why we at Cleanfax compiled a list of some of the best items to bring with you for your next business convention so you can stay comfortable, productive, and highly engaging from start to finish. After all, as Alexander Graham Bell once famously said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
1. Presentation, attendee, and special events guide
Before attending any business convention or trade show, you will want to compile a breakdown of the presentations, attendees, and special events outside of the main trade show offerings. The reason for this is that each of these adds value to your experience and creates networking opportunities for your company.
Sitting in on certain presentations can provide perfect conversation starters between yourself and leaders in your industry that may be able to help you expand your services, better manage your team, or collaborate with other companies they work with.
Similarly, learning key information about attendees prior to the event will allow you to connect with them on a more personal level. On top of this, given that events only last so long, these lists will also help you to decide what leaders are more valuable to connect with than others for your success and networking goals. For instance, connecting with a local restoration company similar to your own may be a good way to cross-promote your services, but it may be even more valuable to connect with a restoration industry marketing specialist to learn how to better market your own brand on social media and beyond.
Lastly, finding special events outside of the main presentations and meetings is one of the best ways to connect with leaders you might not have the chance to at the convention itself. Everything from brainstorm sessions and morning yoga meets to bar crawls and karaoke can be utilized to connect with your industry and create a more valuable and profitable network for your brand. The key is to find these special events and attend them casually without becoming pushy or trying to network the entire time. As the old saying goes, it pays to leave a little to the imagination.
2. Casual conversation starters
If you’re someone that struggles to connect with other companies or needs a bit of help striking up effective conversations, it doesn’t hurt to pack some conversation starters with you for events.
Some good conversation starters for business leaders according to Indeed include:
- What do you like most about working in this area?
- Have you worked on any exciting projects lately?
- How long have you been with this company?
- This is my first time at this event. Have you been here before?
- If you were giving a presentation, what would you discuss?
- Will you be at the [panel/speaker name] session? I’m trying to decide whether to attend.
- Do you know of any good [restaurants/museums/shopping/entertainment outlets] around here?
The key when using these conversation starters is to ensure they feel natural, appeal to the individual you hope to speak to, and don’t feel like a ‘generic conversation starter simply to network.’ For this, try memorizing a few of your favorites and then using them in the mirror or on your friends, family, and team. This will make the words flow more smoothly and help you connect in a far more natural and charismatic manner.
3. Conference networking app
Technology truly has a way of making everything in business easier—including networking. Social discovery apps are a great way to connect with attendees digitally and then create a virtual repertoire well before meeting in person.
According to TechCrunch, “This type of discovery mechanism is already being made possible by a number of services, including the check-in apps like Foursquare and Gowalla, the automated discovery of nearby folks via Sonar and Banjo, the group chatting in Yobongo, and the micro-networks that emerge through LoKast. All of these companies are playing with the idea of location-based social networks, attempting to connect you to others around you through varying means.”
To make these apps run more smoothly at events, be sure to download them ahead of time at your hotel and begin using them before the events even begin. This will help you to find valuable connections that you can meet with to begin networking from the second you walk through the door and onto the conference or trade show floor.
If you’re not a fan of adding new apps to your phone, you can also try searching for hashtags related to the event on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. This will help you to find other people that are posting about the event and potentially attending it like yourself as well.
4. Portable toiletries/Appearance maintenance items
As Dolly Parton once said, “I’m no natural beauty. If I’m gonna have any looks at all, I’m gonna have to create them.” For the professional, prim, and proper leaders that tend to make up the restoration and remediation industry, being charismatic and charming isn’t always a strong suit. However, as a leader, you have to learn how to appear confident, maintained, and valuable to your industry in order to succeed at networking and business growth.
With this in mind, it isn’t enough to begin your day looking your best. You have to also maintain your appearance throughout the entire convention day in and day out. To do this, be sure to bring a set of portable toiletries along with appearance maintenance items such as a hairbrush, a small set of trimmers, and a color corrector/concealer. Even for the male leaders, these items can be useful to remove red splotches on your cheeks, loose nose hairs, or to tame your hair on a frizzy and humid summer convention day.
5. Business card alternatives
Although business cards are always a great addition to your set of trade show or convention items to bring, there are many other alternatives to business cards that offer the same—if not more—value. Pens, neck coolers, keychains, and sunglasses all serve as great ways to get other companies to happily take, and keep, your information for far longer than a standard piece of printed cardstock.
On top of this, buying these items in bulk makes them not much more expensive than quality business cards and offers value to your convention booths that are sure to be run by your best sales leaders ready to connect and network effectively.
6. Reusable water bottle
Dehydration is one of the most common reasons company leaders have to take breaks from networking throughout the day at conventions and trade shows. Although it’s a massive problem, the solution is truly as simple as carrying around a reusable water bottle and being sure to drink it throughout the day.
If you’re not a fan of standard water and want to ensure you’ll stay hydrated, you can even opt for Liquid IV Hydration sticks in various flavors. They provide better hydration throughout the day and make your water far more appetizing while networking with other companies comfortably.
7. Compact notebook and pen
With most of us on our cellphones at all times, the use of a standard pen and paper may seem a bit archaic. However, not every convention has great service. This is especially true for those traveling to conventions out of state.
To be sure that you can connect with people and get their information without making them wait for the ‘beach ball of death,’ simply opt for a small notebook you can place in your pocket and a pen or two that are also compact enough to be stored on your person. Having more than one pen is best since this will also help to eliminate the risk of a potential ‘out of ink’ dilemma when trying to write down a phone number or email in haste.
8. Diverse wardrobe
For large multi-day conventions, it’s best to treat them the same way you would a visit to Disneyland. Having a pair of comfortable shoes, wearing breathable undergarments, and bringing some clothes for varying experiences is really the best way to go about packing for any networking opportunity.
For the convention floor, a nice business casual wardrobe paired with some supportive sneakers is ideal. To help find the best shoes for comfort and style, check out this informative shoe list by Shape.
Meanwhile, you may have to go to dinner arrangements, after-hours parties, or morning gym workouts meaning a few ‘wild card’ outfits are also recommended. As a rule of thumb, pack at least one extra item for each piece of your wardrobe to be especially safe. For instance, if you are attending a three-day convention, bring four shirts, pairs of pants, and even underwear. This is especially viable if you do plan to do physical activities in between conference hours since no one likes networking with the ‘smelly person.’
9. Personalized snacks
In 2019, TED took the internet by storm simply by having “refuel stations” at their annual ideas forum. What most attendees raved about was the fact that the tech giant offered convenient snack stations free to all who attended. While this may seem impractical to some, the truth is that the free publicity alone was well worth the small price that the brand paid by comparison on these snack items.
For companies looking to truly stand out and connect on a more unique level at conventions, having personalized snacks is one of the best ways to do it. With thousands of hungry and tired leaders passing by you, a simple offer such as a bag of peanuts or fruit snacks can be the perfect way to grab their attention, have them keep your information with them, and even potentially post about your strategy online for other attendees to see and interact with.
To add even more value to the items, try finding ways to connect them with your company such as eco-friendly snacks for green cleaning companies or ‘crumbly’ Nature Valley granola bars that make a clever connection to your restoration brand.
10. Unique/Incentivized print pieces
Lastly, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so why spend your time talking to companies when you can gain their attention all with the help of a great print piece? Everything from discounts and referrals to funny brochures and useful resource guides serve as great print options to get companies to interact with you and your team on the floor.
For more engagement, you may want to have multiple options that you can switch between each day. This will keep companies coming back so you can solidify your relationships throughout the extent of the event.
A great example of an effective print piece could be a QR code that links to an informative and valuable eBook on a restoration topic. Similarly, you could provide a discount to the customers of companies that work with you. This could be good for companies with specialties looking to offer their services to others that don’t provide these services to their clients.
No matter what way you choose to go with this strategy, the most important things to focus on are the principles of print design, marketing color theory, and the value of high-quality content. These elements combined will help your company to create incredibly effective and useful print pieces that can be used at countless conventions to gain connections and improve your digital presence as well.
How to prepare for the ISSA Show North America 2022
With the ISSA Show North America 2022 coming up in just a few months, preparation is key. With the list of items above, you can be ready for anything and everything while connecting with your industry on a more profitable and personal level.