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Maximizing Attendance at  Conferences – Trade  Shows
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by Bernie Otis, February 2008
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“Never get off of an elevator without knowing the name and business involvement of every person on the elevator”
Bernie Otis

February 2008 - Almost daily we receive Trade Journals, E-mails, Direct Mail announcements and other information telling us about a Seminar, Conference, Event we “Must” attend. What to do? Which ones to attend? Who should represent us? How do we measure success if we do attend? Do we sponsor the event? Should we have a booth? These are serious questions and they need to be properly addressed. Our budgets are limited, so how do we get the best bang for our dollar?

In order to help find the answers to these questions let me share some ideas with you. They are based upon experiences gleaned from my 60 plus years of experience as a sales representative, consultant, business owner, and corporate executive i.e. “Revenue Generator”, in a variety of industries, as well as from the experiences of my clients.

My intent is not to dissuade anyone from attending such events, but rather to provide some insights in how to get the most out of such participation. Whether you are a Vendor selling product, a Consultant providing services, or just looking to develop other types of opportunities, following these suggestions will enhance the results you are seeking.

People attend Conferences - Trade Shows for any one or all of the following reasons, to:

  1. Obtain an overview of their Industry
  2. Meet their Clients and business associates
  3. Identify Revenue-Generating opportunities
  4. Advance their careers (Job seeking)
  5. Learn about new products and services (Education)
  6. Add to their knowledge about the Industry
  7. Just to get away from the daily grind
Things to consider in determining whether the investment is a wise one:
  1. What is the nature of the meeting? Is it National or Regional? Is there a Trade Show component?
  2. Will your attendance help you learn more about your Industry and provide more knowledge about your business? Will it expose you to real Revenue Generating opportunities? 
  3. Who are the likely attendees? Are they the decision-makers, or those who influence decision-makers in your industry? Check this out before you make the investment.
  4. Are the speakers and members of seminar panels recognized leaders in your Industry, who can open the right doors for you?
  5. Will the subject matter of the seminars and workshops address issues of concern to you?
  6. Will a sponsorship or display improve your Revenue Generating opportunities over the next 12 months? (If your Clients are the major displayers you may want to consider just carefully walking the show and visiting their booths).
  7. Are those who attend likely to be your customers? If for example, you do most of your business in a specific region of the country such as California, displaying at Regional New York meeting may not be a wise investment.
How to maximize the benefits of your attendance:
  1. If more than one person from your organization will be attending the meeting, they should avoid sitting together in meetings, or attending the same seminars (unless of course it is a subject all of you need to address), or stand together at receptions.  A pre-attendance strategy should be developed to ensure that the maximum opportunities for Revenue Generation are identified. I often attend conferences where several persons from the same organization are at the same table breakfast, lunch and dinner. They need to spread out and meet people. 
  2. While it is important to spend time with and enhance your relationships with   friends and current clients, it is equally important to take advantage of the opportunity to be face to face with those new players who can help grow your business. You need to work the conference.
  3. In determining which workshops and seminars to attend be certain that the persons on the panel are ones you need to know, or that the subject matter addresses your needs. It is often wise to go to work shops, which have no bearing on what you do, if the scheduled speakers and likely attendees are persons who are important to your revenue generating objectives.
  4. You should sit at either the workshop table, or the front row of the room.  As early as possible ask a question that is relevant to that session, or make a comment  that will let those in the room know what you do. Do not be passive. You are there for a reason, make your presence known. Walk and talk. Use the simple formula of “Telling not Selling”. Ask a few simple questions that  will qualify them. If you do not in a minute hear that they can help move on. And by all means attend the entire show. No meaningful results can be obtained  by a “Quick” visit.
  5. In determining who from your organization should attend the meeting, carefully consider the nature of the Conference along with the experience and expertise of the likely attendees.  Do not send a low level staff person to a Conference that is attended by high level suspects (persons who are most likely to need your product  or services). 
  6. Be certain your attendees know how to develop relationships. Be certain that you and your key staff members are well prepared to do the follow up needed when you get back from the event. Have a plan ready before you go – not after  you get back.
In the final analysis the results to be obtained from attendance at any Industry event depend not only upon the decisions you make before determining what your participation level will be, but also, on how proactive you are in pursuing your objectives once you both attend, as well as when you return to your office. 

Treat it for what it is – An Opportunity for Revenue Growth
   
Consider this; No matter the state of economy. No matter what is going on in your Industry, if you follow the guidelines set forth herein, you will always be a winner when you return to your home base.



Bernard S. Otis is a well known Writer/Speaker/Marketing Sales Consultant, as well as a highly respected Food, Beverage & Laundry Consultant to Kamran & Company, Inc. Among his clients are major hotels/casinos/restaurants and healthcare organizations, as well as business and professional groups. He can be reached at (800) 230-2928 Access Code OO, botis77@yahoo.com

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Contact:

Bernard S. Otis
Director Hospitality/Gaming/Resorts
Kamran  and Company, Inc.
15270 Sutton Street, #109
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
(800) 230-2928 Access Code 00
 

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