One of the things that I relish most about trade shows is that there’s always something new to learn.
Whether it’s discovering a new insight for your business, getting to know a new city or just simply taking yourself out of the office for a week to give yourself a different perspective and a fresh injection of enthusiasm – for me trade shows tick a lot of boxes and Microsoft Convergence 2013 was no exception.
So what were the key takeaways for us over the course of the week?
One of the first is that New Orleans is a fair trip from the UK, in fact over 20 hours if you include the transfer time at the Atlanta hub. So we needed our rest day on the Sunday and were more than grateful that our marketing team had opted for the turnkey stand as it gave us time to explore the city which we did through a great tour company arranged by the Loews Hotel.
I’m a great believer in using city tours to help you to orientate yourself around a new city and to get a feel for the history and culture of the place. Our tour certainly didn’t disappoint, giving us a “warts and all” view of the Crescent City as well as showing the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
Refreshed by our excursion, my colleague Neil and I were fired up for the Monday arriving early to make sure that everything was in place for a busy day showing our new Capture+ address validation service to what we hoped would be a group of enthusiastic Dynamics’ prospects.
After a solid 10 hours on my feet I was ready to collapse and moaning about being too old for this sort of thing!
There’s no doubt about it that being on your feet with very little downtime takes a lot out of you, however, it’s worth it with recollections of great conversations with potential customers who have an immediate need for the service and who “get it”, helping to pull you through.
I would always recommend that whatever you wear for tradeshows you dress for comfort. From spongy shoes all the way through to loose fitting trousers (pants) and tops every little bit helps. Unfortunately our new PCA shirts and jeans were a bit too restricting so we will be looking to change these for future events.
Selling anything is really what you make of it. It is very easy to sit back and expect the business to come to you, however, the fact of the matter is that with hundreds of potential services to choose from, acres of floor space to cover and a huge number of other distractions such as Microsoft’s own educational events to attend, most attendees’ minds were elsewhere.
I like to think of my role on the trade stand as being like that of a trapdoor spider which jumps out and snares whatever comes within range.
Fortunately for us, we have a very simple proposition to sell which takes 10-15 seconds to demonstrate and works very well on an iPad, making it very easy to quickly see who may be interested or not.
By the end of the week Neil and I took over 300 leads with Neil claiming a well-deserved victory, although God knows how as I bust a gut to collect about a third of the leads! I put it down to quality over quantity, although he would argue differently.
So we’re looking forward to converting our prospects over the coming months and to attending Convergence 2014 which will be in a more manageable Atlanta. Hopefully, Neil and I will have sorted out our differences by then although I’m sure that it will only be until we find the next competition.
Which brings me to my story about handcuffs and tradeshows.
I attended a show a couple of years ago where the booth next to us was doing a “get out of jail” promotion using handcuffs as giveaways.
At the end of the show they gave us a few not wanting to be laden down on the trip back.
We thanked them and returned back to the UK, not thinking any more of our gifts until the following week when I needed to travel with one of my colleagues to another show in Germany, whereupon going through airport security the X-ray alarm went off and a guard wearing (appropriately) rubber gloves called my colleague James and I over holding up the handcuffs that had triggered the alert.
I didn’t need to be a mind reader to guess what he was thinking!
Which goes to show – beware of what you bring back from tradeshows.