Right before any of the real estate industry conferences there tend to be a bevy of blog posts and articles on how agents and brokers can get the most out of conferences. These are great for helping conference attendees focus in on what they want to accomplish in person at an event that gathers industry leaders, innovators and emerging voices.
But someone is forgotten in all those articles: vendors — you know, the people who are in those booths on the trade show floor or wandering the hallways scheduling a meeting or a party.
To some, vendors are like a necessary evil of conferences. They help foot the bill in exchange for the opportunity to put up a sign or hand out stuff while the conference sessions are being held in other rooms.
But without their financial input, many conferences wouldn’t happen. So where are the articles about how a vendor can get the most out of a show?
How vendors, service providers, consultants, technology gurus, etc., get the most out of conferences
I’m a consultant. I don’t sell real estate. I work with people who sell real estate. That means when I’m at a conference I’m in the same mode as all the other vendors.
In addition, since I write this column and because many of my clients want to know what I think about the latest and greatest stuff (or the oldest and boldest, either way) I talk with a lot of vendors.
Here are some things that I think are important for vendors to do at a conference. These things are for organizations and groups that like to plan and set priorities. There is a different "no priorities" method that I’ll cover some other time.
1. Make a plan. Spend as much time figuring out what you want to get out of the conference as you spend figuring out what your trade-show display is going to look like. You cannot be too specific here. "Get new clients" is not specific enough.
Set your objectives and make specific plans that outline the things you will do in order to achieve those objectives. Assign people on your team to do those things.
2. Prioritize. Put your goals in order of priority. Remember when assigning goals to people on your team that anything beyond three goals probably won’t get done.
Trade shows are chaotic events and, as a vendor, much of your time will be spent on logistics and scheduling. If you’re relatively new to the industry, you’ll probably have to spend some time figuring out who’s who among vendors and attendees.
Things will take longer than you anticipate, so keep your priorities clear.
3. Be conscious of the schedule. Have a usable version of the conference schedule handy at all times. This could be on paper or it could be digital, whatever works for you. But have it easily accessible. That way you’ll know what’s going on right now, what presentation that mob of people just saw, and what’s likely to be on their mind right now.
4. Listen. The biggest reason to go to a conference or trade show is to get to spend time with existing and potential customers. What you do with that time is important. I’m certain that many vendors will have specific sales goals for the show, and that makes sense. But don’t lose the opportunity to hear the words people are saying.
When someone else is talking, many people start thinking about what they’re going to say next. This is especially true when under sales pressure. This approach can cause them to miss important information about real problems that no one is yet addressing (product/service development ideas).
What’s nice about a conference environment is that once people know you’re interested and actually listening (as opposed to refining your pitch in your mind) they’re more than happy to let you know if the pain points you’re hearing about are worth pursuing.
Listening is, by far, the best thing you can be doing at a conference. Making one sale is great. Coming up with a new product or service that solves a real problem is much, much better.
5. Be polite to everyone. This one should go without saying. But it should always be in the forefront of your mind. It’s easy to be polite to potential customers. It’s not as easy to be polite to conference staff or hotel/venue staff when things aren’t going the way you’d like.
Everyone at a conference — organizers, attendees and vendors — want it to work out. But sometimes things go a little haywire. Be prepared to flex a bit and solve your own problems if things go wrong. If things were really out of order, you can and should take it up with organizers at some point. But making a scene won’t get you what you really need the most.
I bring this up because I once witnessed an incredible outburst from someone who absolutely should have known better. This person was flipping out on a conference staffer.
The thing the person was angry about was the individual’s own fault, and the staffer they were chewing out had no control over it. The scene did not reflect well on that individual.
6. If you’re new to the industry. Plan on spending a lot of time learning who the movers and shakers are. Make it a point to go to as many evening parties, Meetups and/or hangouts as possible. Find the people who speak your language, whether they’re competitors or customers.
Definitely tell people what you’re up to and what you’re working on. But if you’re new, take the time to develop some relationships with people who can help you refine your approach and connect you to other people.
You’ll be surprised to find that many people you thought might be good at connecting you to others aren’t very good at it all. And other people you’d never heard of before can somehow introduce you to everyone you need to meet. So keep your eyes and ears open.
7. If you’re flying solo. I’m a one-man band myself, so if this is you I feel for you. Unlike companies that have teams of people at the show, you won’t be able to cover the whole event personally. You’ll have to pick and choose what you do and where you spend your time. Be ruthless with your priorities.
If you know a few other people who are also flying solo and that you trust to pay attention at sessions, coordinate with them to share notes, or grab coffee and recap what you both learned. This way you both can cover more ground.
Hear Gahlord Dewald speak at the upcoming Real Estate Connect Conference in New York, which runs from Jan. 11-13, 2012.