Trade shows present an incredible opportunity to learn about new trends and technologies affecting your industry and to meet emerging thought leaders, peers and potential new customers.

In order to maximize your time and effort at the conference, we’ve put together a few ways you can make the most of these networking opportunities.

Create your contact wish list

As you prepare yourself for Groceryshop, one thing you can do ahead of time is create a wish list of brands or people you’d like to speak with.

Target a set of 10 to 20 people – your top tier of connections you’d like to make – and with a little research on LinkedIn, you can begin setting meetings in your calendar before the event has even begun.

The conference will host over 210 speakers from every category including healthcare, beauty, personal wellness, fresh and packaged foods, pet foods (and more!) and the speaker list is being regularly updated online so you can get an idea of who will be in attendance.

The same goes for media. Groceryshop has confirmed over 50 outlets that will be covering the event, including Bloomberg, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Inc. and Total Retail (just to name a few) and they can be invaluable to meet with, especially if you’re exhibiting.

Many professionals list at least one way to get in touch on LinkedIn and I’ve found success in politely reaching out ahead of time to introduce myself and offer to take a peer out for coffee.

If you don’t know who to get started with, you could email our Co-Founder and CEO, Daniel Rodic or  our Director of Business Development and Brand Partnerships, Lisa Jacques, both of whom will be on the show floor and happy to chat with you.

Give value, without expectation

Building meaningful connections is about finding ways to help someone else, not just how they can help you.

While doing research into your target list of contacts, find out everything you can about the work they’re doing and how you may be able to help them. Most professionals would welcome:

  1. Ways to find new talent for their team
  2. Find a solution to a problem they’re facing, or
  3. Learn something new that can help them perform better

Though your new connections coming out of Groceryshop this year may be immediately useful, think about how useful they’ll be come next year’s conference, after you’ve invested incrementally in their success.

Meaningful relationships are a long-term investment and it’s never too soon to begin investing.

Ask questions

Great conversations stem from great listening. By asking insightful open questions, you stimulate someone to share more about the work they’re doing and potentially reveal where you can offer value.

Though it’s tempting to default to the question “what do you do?” we love asking “what are you excited about?”

This question, or a variant of it, like “what’s keeping you busy” generates a more thoughtful response than just the person’s job title.

Some other great questions to keep in mind in your conversations are:

  • What interested you most about attending Groceryshop?
  • What sessions are you most excited to see?
  • What technologies have been most helpful to you in your business?
  • What current trends do you see affecting your department or organization?
  • Where do you see your industry/category in the next five years?

Stories are better than sales pitches

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of an eager sales pitch, you know this is very off-putting. Instead, have stories that you can share. For example, if you’ve attended the conference in the past, share an anecdote about one of the most memorable moments from last time. Or share a story about another time you’ve visited Las Vegas (a safe-for-work story, preferably.)

People open up more when you’re talking about mutual interests or a shared experience – like the conference or city you’re in. The best part of sharing stories is that you’re likely to receive one in return, giving you an opportunity to deepen the relationship.

If you’re looking for more resources on becoming an expert conversationalist, we’ve found these tips are timeless.

Also, have sales pitches

Can you explain the value that your company provides, in the time it takes to ride the elevator? Learn how to convey what you do and the value you bring into a short sound-bite so that it’s easy to communicate and remember. You’ll be in a room full of 2,000 of your peers, so managing time will be important.

Many interactions will be short, as you welcome guests visiting your booth, or as you dart down the paths between exhibitors. Even during cocktail hours, it’s best to maximize your effort by working more of the room instead of sticking to one or two long conversations.

Have your elevator pitch (and questions) ready for when you know you’ve only got a few minutes to keep their attention. This is especially useful when meeting with the media. When an outlet stops by your booth to discover your product, they’ll be filtering a lot of what you tell them, in order to get to the gold they want to write about.

Remember, keep it short and impactful.

Follow up immediately 

The more time that passes after the conference concludes, the colder that connection gets and the less likely they’ll be to keep in touch.

Stay on your contact’s radar by following up after your discussion with a short email or text, including something that they may find useful – a link to an article about something you talked about is a great start.

For media outlets, send them a link to your press kit or product page so they have all the information they need to write their story.

Did I miss anything? What networking strategies have you found the most success with? I’d love to hear from you and, if you’re heading to Groceryshop, be sure to connect with Daniel and Lisa, who would be thrilled to meet you.