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Creative Connecting: Easing Back Into In-Person Events

ColumnistsJul 20, 2021

Creative Connecting: Easing Back Into In-Person Events

Duvall O’Steen and Jen Cullen Williams give tips on reconnecting IRL and surviving long days as the jewelry world prepares for Las Vegas.

Duvall O’Steen, left, and Jen Cullen Williams are independent communications strategists and senior consultants for the Luxury Brand Group. They can be reached at DuvallOsteenNYC@gmail.com or Jen@JenCullenWilliams.com.
Are you ready for Vegas?
 
As in-person trade shows resume next month, like JCK Las Vegas, the Couture show and AGTA GemFair Las Vegas, as well as conferences and special events, industry members may need a refresher on best practices when it comes to connecting IRL. 
 
We’ve compiled reminders for both exhibitors and attendees, and included some tech-savvy, modern suggestions to foster meaningful connections that will help build your business and your network.
 
And because we’ve been to a few of these in our time, we’re also sharing some personal tips to survive long days of standing, walking and probably not having much time to eat! 

Without further ado...
 
Tips for Buyers and Attendees

1. Scheduling

Set goals and make a pre-show plan of the businesses and attendees you would like to meet, then reach out to book appointments or make plan to meet them during the show for coffee. 
 
Be sure to download the showfloor map from the show’s app when scheduling appointments—this will help minimize travel time between appointments, thereby maximizing your time at the show. 
 
Also, consider using the “JCK Match” feature on the JCK Show app. As a registered attendee, you are immediately eligible to be matched with exhibitors who provide the type of products you are looking for based on the information you provide during registration. 
 
Don’t forget to include some downtime on the schedule to browse the show floor for new discoveries, especially in areas where you have not had many meetings. Also, allow time for the fabulous joy of running into industry friends. 
 
2. QR Codes

Many of the trade show operators now include QR codes on badges and booths that can be scanned and saved, then accessed at a later time. 
 
If you see a new jewelry brand or supplier or something in a showcase that intrigues you, scan the QR code to get more information and to save it, so that you can check it out later when time permits.
 
3. Networking

Plan to attend at least one event each day, with a goal of making at least one new connection at each. 
 
Networking doesn’t have to happen on the show floor; it can happen in line for coffee or in the halls outside of the show. 
 
Be prepared with business cards, a friendly face and be ready to actively listen, engage and quickly explain your position and what your company does. 
 
4. Exit Strategy

When you are at networking events or even roaming the show floor, it is important to avoid letting conversations linger, as you may miss opportunities to meet with other professionals. 
 
Be prepared to politely excuse yourself from a conversation in order to open yourself up for other opportunities to engage. 
 
Plan your exit line and rehearse it so it does not feel uncomfortable in the moment.
 
5. Notes

Be prepared to take notes. Handwritten or digital notes on an iPad or smartphone help you avoid confusion or misremembering later.  

Tips for Exhibitors

1. Lead Capture and Tech Tools 

Get creative with lead capture to make sure you can properly follow up after the show with everyone who visits or stops at your booth. 
 
Motivate visitors to leave their business cards by having an attractive bowl or vase designated for the purpose and offer gifts or refreshments in exchange for the business card. 
 
For press stopping by the booth, be sure to collect their business cards before handing over your digital press kits. 
 
If the journalist or editor does not have a business card, quickly take their email address down in the notes on your smartphone, as opposed to a piece of paper that can get lost or damaged.  
 
Use digital technology to help retain each person’s contact information. At this year’s JCK and Luxury shows, you can also quickly scan the QR code on a buyer’s or visitor’s badge to automatically save the badge information into a database you can access at a later time. 
 
QR codes are also great to include on marketing materials, especially with a URL tracker to monitor traffic.  
 
There are also efficient apps for scanning business cards and adding them to your smartphone contacts. Be sure to assign the task to someone on the team; for every business card received, that person should be responsible for scanning it into the appropriate sales manager’s phone or adding it to the company database as soon as possible.  
 
2. Designated Greeter

Invest in a professional greeter who can offer a warm, friendly and quick welcome to anyone and everyone who visits the booth, no matter how busy your team gets. 
 
Buyers are incredibly busy and may not have time to wait while your team finishes other meetings. The greeter can take responsibility for gathering business cards, scheduling appointments on the spot and offering instant customer service. 
 
Many professional actors and hospitality workers serve as greeters in between other jobs. They can be hired through local temp agencies or local online job postings. 
 
Be sure to hold a quick Zoom interview with the candidate(s) before hiring, and remember to give them clear and detailed instructions for wardrobe, arrival times and expectations. For example, if you want your greeter to wear your jewelry at the booth, be sure to ask if their ears are pierced in the interview process.
 
3. Elevator Pitch

Be prepared for networking and sales opportunities off the show floor. 
 
Divide and conquer so that your team members can attend as many events as possible. Make sure everyone on the team has a prepared and practiced “elevator pitch” to make the most of chance encounters with buyers in the hallways or at cocktail parties and seminars. 
 
The elevator pitch should quickly distinguish your brand from others on the show floor and include a call to action. For example: “Stop by the booth, we have cold water and Starbucks Frappuccino drinks” or “We’re hosting a ring giveaway, give us your business card and you could win one of our new styles.”
 
4. Display Flow

When designing your booth, consider traffic flow and a display that will allow a thoughtful and seamless presentation of your newest items or collections.
 
5. Respect Buyer Time

At the start of each appointment, contract for time. Ask the buyer how much time they have and try to streamline your presentation accordingly. 
 
Consider something fun like setting a timer on your phone and placing it on the table where all can see it. 
 
Take a moment at the start to connect personally, but also get to the point fairly quickly to respect the valuable time of your visitor. Such efforts will be appreciated.
 
 Related stories will be right here … 

6 Personal Trade Show Survival Tips from Jen and Duvall

Now, as promised, here are our personal tips for surviving the grind. Let us know if you have your own helpful tips to share by leaving a comment wherever this story shared!  
 
Jen’s Survival Tips:
  • Get Your Head Right. Download a fitness, yoga or meditation app on your phone and make a point to spend 15-30 minutes each morning getting centered and focused on the jam-packed day head. 
  • Make Your Shoe Game Strong. #VegasShoes. Nothing will kill your ability to network more than when you can’t walk or stand due to foot discomfort. Pack a variety of comfortable shoes and options to change into from day to night. Bonus tip: pack Epsom salts and soak your feet for 10 minutes after a long day.
  • Your Voice Matters. Many days of talking within loud venues, in the desert, during the summer, can wreak havoc on your vocal cords and cause you to lose your voice. Your ability to speak is one of the most important ways to communicate and network, so remember to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. Consider bringing a refillable water bottle. Also, remember beverages like coffee and alcohol can be very dehydrating, so you will need more water than normal. There are oral rinses from brands like Biotene that help soothe a dry mouth. Also, member to pack cough drops and lozenges! 
Duvall’s Survival Tips:
  • Sleep Is Not Overrated. Going strong all day every day and then having to attend client dinners and industry events in the evenings is exhausting, in the best possible way. To have your best meetings and snap your best selfies or photos with your favorite industry friends, sleep is critical. Set a daily limit and make sure that you are in your room and resting by a certain time. Save the Vegas wild night for the last night, and sleep on the plane on the way home. 
  • Calories Count. You need them. Another challenge at trade shows is finding time to eat, especially if your booth or meetings are not near a food source. Try not to skip breakfast in case you have to skip lunch. Pack protein bars and snacks to get you through the day. Protein keeps you satisfied and helps you to focus. B-12 sublingual vitamins and fresh fruit offer instant energy pick-ups because both are easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Tennis pro tip: Martina Navratilova always eats an orange before a big match!
  • Keep It Real. Try to connect with new industry contacts you meet as human beings, not as potential moneymakers for your business. This industry is all about relationships. If you genuinely connect with people, even if you don’t get the opportunity to do business during the show, they will remember you and take your call at a later date. Have compassion for the other person’s long and grueling day. Ask questions to discover similar passions and keep the conversation, at least at first, more about them than you.  
Jen Cullen Williamsis an independent communications strategist and senior consultant for the Luxury Brand Group.
Duvall O'Steenis an independent communications strategist and senior consultant for the Luxury Brand Group.

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