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6 Tips for Making the Most Out of Trade Shows and Conferences Here's what you need to know to make the best of attending industry events.

By Small Business PR

This story originally appeared on PR Newswire's Small Business PR Toolkit

Industry events can either be small, intimate, and local, or they can be international huge events, but in either case, preparing for your industry events is similar, and we've developed 6 tips to help you make the most of your industry trade shows and conferences.

1. Plan early.

Most events know their dates at least a year in advance if not more. In order to get the best deals on both attending and exhibiting fees, plan early. The earlier you plan, the better rates you will receive. Additionally, when you plan early, you have time to get all of your promotional and collateral materials designed and planned, and you're not stressing yourself over small things closer to the conference or trade show dates.

Planning early also gives you time to focus on your outbound marketing efforts. Start making lists of leads and companies and/or individuals who are in your target market of fall into the category of products and services you're looking to fulfill, planning your meetings in advance means that face to face time is maximized by being prepared for a meaningful conversation.

A helpful hint is to download an event planning template. This will ensure that you don't forget small details that can sometimes slip between the cracks.

Related: 5 Steps for Successful Self-Promotion

2. Announce your attendance.

It may seem insignificant, but announcing your attendance through a basic press release over a newswire can help temporarily boost your SEO, and it can also catch the eye of local media. This tactic is especially helpful if your business operates in a small community, and you're traveling to represent your company and inherently your city. Additionally, if you can put a unique angle on the reason for your attendance, and why you're the best fit for the job, that makes for a great news story.

3. Commission a study and release findings at the event.

What's trending in your industry? This is an opportunity to establish yourself as an industry thought leader. Again, it is important to plan early so you can gather information as well as develop and design how it will be presented either in a brochure or one sheet. If you do undertake this kind of project, make it relate back to your target market, and show them how your product or service is the solution to the problems you found in your study. Also, note that it doesn't have to be very intensive, it just needs to be relevant information that they can take away for free.

4. Host an event with a personal approach.

While it's possible to make great connections during conference hours, typically the best contacts are made after hours. Many industry events have cocktail hours, or social events after hours, but if not, or even if they do, a nice way to stand out from your competitors and get quality face time with your best prospects is to host an after hours event like a sit down dinner. Offer the meal to your prospects free of charge, and then provide them with a low-pressure pitch/informational session at dinner. If you think about the marketing dollars you spend to capture their attention through advertising, paying for a small intimate dinner with their captive attention seems like a no-brainer.

Related: 5 Types of Blog Content That Keep Your Marketing Fresh

5. Don't be afraid to talk to strangers.

Whether you are attending or exhibiting, approaching a perfect stranger can be uncomfortable. Just remember that many people at trade shows are there alone, and will gladly welcome a friendly smile and warm conversation. You never know who you may open up your world to when you strike up a conversation or invite someone to share your table at lunch. Trade show settings can be hectic and intimidating, so don't be afraid to initiate the conversation.

6. Follow up. Follow up. Follow up.

You went to the conference and you made tons of new contacts, don't let your excursion away from the office be wasted time and money. Following up with all of your new leads is imperative. The best approach is to segment your contacts in groups by order of importance, and start with the most important, and then send brief thank yous and reminders of your encounter to people who you're simply storing in your Rolodex just in case.

Written by Heather Wied, marketing director, Pubsoft.

Related: Inspiration Is Everywhere: How To Find Fresh New Blog Topics

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