Let me start by stating on the record that I am no expo expert. I have been to and experienced my fair share, though I only recently crossed my first surf industry trade show off the to-do list. There are a lot of people. A ton of booths, a lot of appointments to keep, introductions to make, and business cards to keep track of. It can be overwhelming but it can also be a lot of fun if you pick up a few tricks here and there. Recently, I took a quick jaunt out to Orlando to see Surf Expo for the first time and well…it was actually a lot of fun. With that said, I think I’ve picked up enough wisdom to pass on to future trade show rookies — like these five potentially lifesaving nuggets:
1. Roll Solo
I’ve been to a few shows in the past with colleagues and friends but this was my first time going at it alone. A company called Bollare Communications sent me out to Orlando, booked my travel, handled my accommodations, and generally made my life really easy for three days. I get that being afforded this opportunity is easier said than done but I learned quickly that going solo is the move. I was on my own program and my own schedule, which made the whole experience more enjoyable.
2. Throw some openers.
Traveling solo is a great thing. Whether it is work or pleasure, I feel like it forces you to come out of your shell and meet new people. I met some rad people who are doing great things in the surf/outdoor space at the expo. Don’t be shy, throw some openers and make some new connections.
My personal favorite is “Hey, are you new?” My best friend leans toward “Wait, we should know each other” as his preferred icebreaker. Both are reliable and yours to throw out there, royalty free.
3. One beer one water.
Stay hydrated. It’s a key to life. It’s also a key to not being that guy in a professional setting — even one as laid back as a surf industry tradeshow. Many exhibitors offer free beer as a way to keep things loose and social. So when you’re offered a brew, go for it. Just make sure to keep that one beer / one water ratio going. You’ll thank me tomorrow.
4. Follow up.
As you get better at throwing those openers, you’ll also progress into locking down a good number close or two. When you meet great people be sure to follow up. There are some great opportunities for mutual benefiting partnerships and collaborations that can come to fruition after a show like this.
5. Bring your selfie game.
I ran into Mark Cunningham at Surf Expo. The guy is a legend who’s fully worthy of going into fanboy mode for.
Make sure your selfie game is on. When the beers are flowing and the openers are firing, you should be capturing these opportunities to rub elbows with icons in our community.