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by Alan Young

Attending HITEC 2016 is about more than an introduction to the latest hospitality technology that will impact the industry; it's also a chance to make connections, source new solutions and consultants, prospect for new customers, and even collect competitive intelligence to help your brand remain on the cutting edge. From LG to one-person start-ups, hundreds of companies will demo new products, while, behind-the-scenes, deals and partnerships will be struck.

Whether you're heading to the Big Easy as an attendee or plan to showcase your own product in an exhibit, four days can go by in a flash. If you want to maximize your time at HITEC 2016, consider the following tips to help you stay on point during the conference.

Optimizing Your Experience as an Attendee
HITEC 2016 kicks off with a full-day of educational seminars on Monday, June 20. Topics range from boot camps on digital strategy and security, to super sessions on new operating/IT models and disruptive business models. A full schedule of events is available to all attendees, but you won't be able to see and do everything. So the question is how do you make the most of your four days?

Tip# 1: Plan Before You Arrive
Using the schedule of events, highlight the educational seminars that are must-see and create a personal schedule. For example, if your brand is working on digital visibility and marketing, pencil in time for the Tuesday evening Super Session on the digital customer journey and guest-facing technology.

Make sure you attend the educational sessions that matter to your brand, but don't forget to leave yourself with ample time to walk the exhibit floor. In fact, you can best utilize your time by studying the HITEC 2016 floor plan in advance. Sticking with the above example, you may want to decide in advance where the booths of exciting brands like Social Tables, NAVIS, Flip.to, AT&T, Netgear, Intelity, GoConcierge, and Oracle Hospitality (among others) are located.

Tip#2: Seek Out Innovation
Innovation is not an exclusive realm of major corporations. As a brief example, Yikes has been highlighted as an innovative company to watch at HITEC 2016. Yikes offers a safe, secure platform to help brands build customer loyalty by facilitating closer contact with customers. Its advanced proximity awareness technology allows guests to use smartphones as room keys and with even more to come.

You also won't want to miss out on Entrepreneur 20X 2016 to check out some of the most inventive, unfunded start-ups the hospitality industry has to offer. This year's docket is now full with interesting companies trying to tackle some of the most pressing technological needs of our industry. Last year at the inaugural Entrepreneur 20X companies like Groupize, GuestCentric, Spokefly and TripChamp didn't disappoint and this year is looking very promising.

Tip#3: Attend Social Gatherings and Parties
It's no secret that many business deals happen over dinner or evening drinks. Networking at the parties that take place in conjunction with HITEC 2016 is an excellent means of sourcing potential new contacts and collecting competitive information. It can become dangerous for your brand to stay trapped in a knowledge bubble, as it undermines professional growth. Engaging with colleagues in the hospitality industry facilitates new learning, expands your industry insights, and drives actionable improvements you can implement within your business later on.

Maximize Your Exhibiting Experience
For those promoting a pioneering product or service at HITEC 2016, success begins with preparation. With a little bit of forethought, you can use your marketing spend effectively as an exhibitor.

Tip#1: Schedule Meetings in Advance
B2B marketers continue to rate in-person events as their most effective tactic (69%), according to B2B Content Marketing 2015: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Report. However, if you don't make every moment at your booth count, you're losing out on potential revenue. Schedule meetings with existing leads for consultations, presentations, or demos in advance of the event. Face-to-face meetings are a great way to nurture leads and close deals. This not only gives you predetermined time to pitch your brand, it does the work of pulling in other attendees for you. A booth with bodies generates buzz, and that buzz will attract the passersby.

Tip#2: Mix Up Your Networking
When you're not on the floor, attend as many networking events as possible. For example, the keynote speaker Tuesday, June 21st has a meet-and-greet session for 30 minutes following the keynote session. This gives you the opportunity to connect not only with the speaker, but also other professionals within your niche who attend that seminar. Hosting mixers, galas and parties are great if you have the budget, but even some personal time during a breakfast or intimate dinner builds relationships and moves them forward.

Get out of your comfort zone and connect with people you don't know to increase your chances of expanding your network. Avoid the classic mistake of only sticking with your inner circle or those you came with. Don't forget about meeting the other exhibitors (yes, even your competitors) as well. Keep your opening line as simple as - "Hi, my name is ..."

Most importantly, approach everyone you meet with the sense of wanting to learn as much as you can about them - instead of trying to tell them all about you. Take advantage of every opportunity to make a good impression.

Tip#3: Develop Strong Content, Before and After
Trade show marketing is a highly strategic process. You have to clearly define your strategy and messaging to ensure everything relates back to your business goals. For starters, the more content you have, the more reason attendees and media have to visit your booth. This includes thought leadership articles, press releases, blogs, ebooks, infographics and white papers. Make the content available to all attendees, exhibitors, and participants before, during, and after the show.

Don't be subtle about sharing information regarding your brand's participation in HITEC 2016. Provide your LinkedIn connections, prospect list and social followers with an invitation to meet up - and don't forget to include your booth number. Update them on events and educational seminars you'll attend or speak at, and decide on a hashtag that makes it easy for anyone to track your brand's activities at HITEC.

Following HITEC's conclusion, summarize your company's experience with an email blast (internal to employees and external to customers) and connect with your new contacts via appropriate social media channels.

HITEC is more than an exposition of innovative technologies in hospitality. Of course, everyone gets excited by the shiny new concepts such as the Relay robotics system from Savioke that delivers items to guest rooms, but if you want to realize ROI on your time and money at the conference, you need a deliberate strategy for the event. These tips aren't all encompassing, and most are just common sense that is often not that common. At the end of the day, these tips will give you an effective starting point to ensure you'll make the most of a great opportunity.

Enjoy HITEC, learn at HITEC, close deals at HITEC but most importantly, make a great plan for HITEC. If you want to meet up, I'll be there - so please drop me a line on LinkedIn or message me on Twitter @alaneyoung.

About Alan Young

Alan E. Young, is the CEO and Co-Founder of Puzzle Partner, a strategic and tactical marketing firm and NBTWorld.com. Previously, Alan has held a number of executive level positions with Start-Up companies such as Newtrade Technologies, (acquired by Expedia), Hotel Booking Solutions (acquired by IBS Software) and TrustYou. Alan is past Chair of The Board of Directors of The OpenTravel Alliance, a global hospitality/travel industry technology standards association. Alan has also been very involved with other industry associations most notably AHLA, HEDNA and HTNG. He is also a presenter and has been a guest speaker at World Travel Mart, ITB, HITEC, Online Revealed, The HOT Conference. With over two decades of experience in the travel and hospitality technology world, Alan specializes in helping innovative travel technology companies achieve winning performance and dramatic growth.

Contact: Alan Young

alan@puzzlepartner.ca / 888-978-8455

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