The expo hall is an exciting part of any conference. There’s so much going on, the freebies, the new tech, the possibility of finding your next big thing. I know you’re tempted to wing it, but you’d be making a mistake going in without a clear plan of action.
It’s impossible to appreciate fully every corner of an expo hall. Avoid the temptation to wing it by having a clear plan of action to get the most out of your expo hall experience. Here’s how to do it.
1. Decide Your Priorities
I’m not saying that you can’t leave some time to explore and be open minded, but the majority of your time needs to fit your real priorities. What specific tools are you looking for? Is there a company you’re hoping to make a connection with while you’re there? What critical goals has your organization made for the calendar year?
Write down a few goals, and center your exploration around booths that help you accomplish them. I recommend following the “1-3-5” strategy of goal setting with one big goal, three medium (secondary) goals, and five smaller (follow-up) goals. Whatever you decide, tailor your route for your goals, and you’ll increase your chances of finding what you need.
2. Make A Plan
We’re talking about a physical route, here. Many expo halls have maps that designate certain areas, and some have booth numbers. Decide your route before you step in so that all the action and excitement don’t derail you into a 30-minute conversation you didn’t want to have.
A plan can also leave you more time to explore than you might have had before. If you accomplish your goals efficiently, you can wander guilt-free, exploring the unexpected instead of getting bogged down right at the entrance.
Don’t just grab your freebie and leave. Take the time to engage with the booth attendants who can answer specific questions, conduct a demonstration, or form a connection between you and an organization you’re interested in.
Once you have your priorities and plan of action, take a few moments and consider questions that get to the bottom of what you need from each booth. You don’t want to leave your most significant goal hanging and hope that the brochure covers what you need. Direct your experience by engaging thoughtfully at each booth and once your questions have been answered or your goal is met, you know when to make your exit.
4. Bring The Right Materials
If you wander in empty-handed, you’re lost. Here’s a quick list of things I always bring to an expo hall:
- (One) Empty bag: If you don’t have a bag for freebies, you can always pick one up at just about any booth you attend. This keeps your hands free for more important things like taking notes. I limit myself to one bag because it forces me to decide what I really need so I don’t waste time later throwing away useless logo-driven merch with no real benefit.
- Pen: The temptation to check notifications on a phone or tablet is high, so I usually go old school. If nothing else, blank pages on the back of the program and a pen picked up in the expo hall are suitable to take a few notes. You could also write on business cards or directly on brochures, but I like to keep everything in one place.
- Camera: I didn’t say your phone or tablet wasn’t useful. I often take pictures with the attendant I talk to and their logo to help jog my memory later for follow-ups. If you get yourself in the picture, you can always send it to them to help jog their memories as well when you follow up.
5. After The Expo Hall
The most important part of the expo hall doesn’t happen while you’re there. It’s vital to follow up with any potential organizations after the fact. Did you think of a question you didn’t ask before? Send your attendant a quick email. Wanting to explore job opportunities? Make contact before the connection goes cold. Your follow-up is where all the magic happens.
Making The Most Of The Expo Hall
Expo halls are exciting and flashy and definitely a source of “alert fatigue,” overwhelming your senses and causing you to ignore useful booths and miss critical information. You don’t have to wander blindly or get trapped in a lengthy presentation that you aren’t interested in. Having your plan in place reduces stress and gives you more time to explore later. You’ll feel like you’ve actually accomplished what you came for, all while leaving some time open for the element of surprise. Once you follow up, you may have your new job/product/solution that rockets your career to the next level. Don’t waste the opportunity. Take charge and leave satisfied.
Editor’s note: Ready to use this strategy and make the most out of an expo hall experience? Attend the AI Solution Showcase Expo & Demo Hall at ODSC East 2019 this April 30-May 3 in Boston!