Updated: Feb 26
A few days ago, I wrote about my experience attending the Small Business Expo presented by Oxygen and CNBC. Although it was my first time at that particular expo, my familiarity attending such events has inspired today's blog. Continue reading for insights on how I best prepare and make the most out of business expos.
Number 1: Practice your elevator pitch.
There's no point in attending an expo if you aren't in some way prepared to talk about your business and/or services. A clear, cut elevator pitch that can be delivered in a minute or less is important for speed networking opportunities and conversations with other owners or representatives at company booths. At San Diego's SBE, the speed networking area only allowed three minutes for both parties to pitch their brand. Be cautious not to take all the time by sticking to your outline so that you don't speak off-topic.
Number 2: Print detailed (and durable) business cards.
In my last blog, I wrote about the designated area for everyone to leave and/or collect business cards and that the area was highly visited by attendees. While walking the space and collecting future contacts for The Cause Mall, I noticed that many business cards lacked information that would be helpful for me to understand their brand and how to find more information about their business and/or services. My next blog will further discuss details to include on your business card.
*Hint* Recently, it has become best practice to include a QR-code linking to your networks and social media pages—something to consider adding! Try to also avoid the standard option when ordering business cards as they can be flimsy and easily weathered.
Number 3: Review the agenda and map out your time.
Your time will be best spent when you go into the expo with clear intentions. When reviewing the agenda ask yourself several questions: Am I looking for new business clients? Do I need to find a business to outsource a service? Which Industry expert attending will I benefit hearing from most? These questions will help you plan whether you should spend more time at the speed networking area to establish new business connections, or perhaps listen in on a few keynote speakers offering advice on how to strengthen your brand.
Event agendas are often published on the event website and application about a week before the event. Review the agenda a few times before attending to ensure you identify workshops that best align with your company's needs and keynote speakers you'll most enjoy. The speed networking and company booths can be visited throughout the event; thus, be sure to schedule your time around workshops and speakers that only present once. Also, note that Happy Hours are a more relaxed setting for you to "meet and greet" so use this time to deepen a connection with someone who stood out to you during the event.
Number 4: Dress to impress (but be comfortable)!
These types of events usually call for business casual attire, allowing you to combine professionalism with comfort. Be careful not to over- nor underdo it! I previously shared a cropped selfie, but my outfit consisted of a button-up, casual blazer, black pants, and my Y3s (I'm a sneakerhead). I maintained comfort while representing myself as a professional business owner.
*Hint* Wear a watch to keep track of time because constantly checking your phone is a distraction and can come off rude during a conversation.
Number 5: Work the room, but don't overwork yourself.
There's nothing worse than seeing an ambitious business owner at a networking event who tries to establish a connection with EVERYONE in the room. Trying to speak to as many attendees as possible can be a counter-productive use of your time. Although you may get contacts for many people this way, they are least likely to be meaningful and won't lead to too many follow-ups. Stagnant connections will not help your business grow! With this in mind, be sure to still take full advantage of the speed networking area for quick business connections.
*Hint* After attending a workshop, stick around and share your information with the presenter. Presenters usually extend special discounts and promotions to you and your business simply because you introduced yourself and showed interest.
Number 6: Stamp all connections by sending a text!
How often do we leave a business networking or educational event with tons of business cards? Who are these people to you after a workweek of which neither of you followed up? If you have a strong connection and exchange phone numbers with someone, send a text right away. Here's what I like to send in a message:
In doing this, you will create a conversation outside of the event and increase your capability of fulfilling the connection beyond just trading business cards.
Number 7: Debrief when you get home!
After pitching your brand with confidence, taking notes from Industry experts, and establishing new connections, you need to reflect on your experience when settle down.
Re-read your notes: We best remember what we write down when we review it within the first 24-hours of writing it.
Filter through business cards you collected and create three piles (follow-up immediately, follow-up soon, no follow-up needed) and follow-up as necessary.
If you sign up and pay for a business' service; check your email and download receipts for business write-offs and be sure to follow-up and make use of what you paid for.