Trade shows are a lot like speed dating.
You go in to the event putting your best foot forward, hoping to make a good first impression. With each person who comes to your table, you have about ten seconds to engage them in what you're selling. Whether it's yourself or your product, the attendees size you up just the same.
I'm always so nervous at first. What's my pitch? How do I sum up what it is I do, my vision, my heart, my services, my products? Will they like me? Brevity.. what's that? Thankfully, I catch my stride quickly.. and I can talk fast.
My first trade show as a business owner was laughable.
We were living just north of Seattle at the time, in a city called Brier. As with most things, I over-prepared for what turned out to be a small town parade situation. My table was located next to the parade sound system (so loud!) and the neighborhood pizza parlor, and in front of the community port-a-potty. The businesses represented there consisted of a doggy daycare, my skin care business, a canine rescue, and a Mary Kay representative. Everyone went to the canine rescue table (they brought puppies), no one even looked me in the eyes. Unless you count a few brave children who came to my table looking for candy.
I made them take a coupon to their moms.
Last month was my second trade show. It was the first annual "Live Well" event, hosted by Jazzercise of Medina, and sponsored by Backbone of Health (a chiropractic/wellness center where I'm a patient). The event was located along the inside perimeter of Jazzercise's main workout room. There were seven businesses: a professional organizer, a financial advisor, an athletic shoe company, a neighboring gym, my chiropractor, a raw foods educator, and me. We had free giveaway items and a raffle drawing.
Hubby came with me. We wore matching shirts. I can't say it was well-attended, but I did meet a few new people, all of whom looked me in the eyes.
Yesterday was trade show number three, and my favorite so far.
Our friend, Sarah Arend, works for Medina Hospital and coordinates the yearly, "Employee Wellness Walk." In an effort to promote good health amongst their staff, they host this event that encourages all of the hospital staff to walk a few laps around the inside of the building, and then attend a trade show in the main lobby that focuses on wellness and clean living. This time around there were nine tables: the hospital welcoming committee, the hospital planning committee, the hospital chaplain, the American Heart Association, an athletic shoe company, Medina County Park District, The Olive Tap, Buehler's catering, and me. I lost count of how many people I met, but a few of them were my clients already, which was a nice treat.
The hospital provided me with a table, which was larger than I was expecting. I displayed everything I brought with me, and held my own during my ten second intervals. Even though my armpits got sweaty, I smiled my best smile, and had real conversations about the things I love to talk about.
While speed dating is not for me (yay marriage!), trade shows remind me that I really do have something worth while to offer.
Having a table next to the snacks helps, too.