Would it surprise you if your best discovery while attending the annual SHOT Show came to you when you weren’t technically at the show? In many ways, the SHOT Show is about connections with people and I’m here to tell you not all networking or business opportunities will occur at the Sands Convention Center next week. Here’s what I mean….
Now first, let me be perfectly clear…I am not talking about “carpetbagging” or “suitcasing” practices that the SHOT Show strictly forbids. Essentially both of these tradeshow practices are activities undertaken by companies who try to take advantage of attendees at the show without paying for or actually participating in exhibitor booth space. In other words, some companies in order to save money will conduct their sales activities on the fringe of the tradeshow in order to capitalize on a high concentration of prospects.
Several years back I was at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport and needed to catch a taxi to my hotel. As it turns out, the guy standing near me needed a taxi for a different hotel just around the corner. We shared the ride (and the expense) and the journey made an awesome new industry connection for a new writer. Not only did we share a mutual activity in both arriving to town for SHOT, but the ride gave us an opportunity to discover how a mutually beneficial relationship could evolve out of the chance encounter.
That’s what I am talking about. Even though it may not be in your personal nature to chat up people who are perfect strangers, the nice thing is if you know someone is at SHOT you already have something in common with them. In essence, you have a conversation begging to happen. Furthermore, within the first 30 seconds you can usually gauge how receptive the other person is to continuing on. Granted, some people will have a lot on their minds and don’t care to lose their focus talking to some person they will never meet again. That’s perfectly fine. It’s not a rejection of you, it’s more a statement about them and the lost opportunities they are not willing to experience with their chilly personality.
Several years back a colleague of mine, Jeff, stepped outside the exhibit floor down in Orlando where they had an area set aside for smoking. Now, I will never suggest a person take up smoking to put yourself in a position to socialize with others, but Jeff started chatting up a show attendee and discovered this guy was selling the primary item Jeff wanted to discover while at the show. Things don’t always work out that perfectly, but it certainly can happen.
Honestly, I can’t tell you how many times I have been riding in an elevator with other show goers and had to ask…”where the hell did you get that?” They will respond how such and such booth is giving the item away. Perhaps you totally missed it at the show, but away from the show is also when discoveries can be made.
Here’s a few quick pointers for striking up a conversation with a SHOT Show stranger(either at or away from the show):
- Consider what is happening at the moment. Are you both waiting in line for a shuttle bus? Say something like “I hope that bus driver didn’t get lost…I have a HOT date tonight!” Break the ice with a statement that begs for further conversation.
- Watch their eyes. If they purposely avoid making direct eye contact with you than it’s a good bet they don’t want to talk. On the other hand, direct eye contact is akin to a personal handshake non verbally indicating…TALK TO ME! Make the verbal move immediately.
- Ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a one-word response. “So, tell me about the best product you’ve seen so far at the show.”
- Wear something odd or unique that encourages people to ask you questions. Let others begin the conversation by being inquisitive.
- Above all, appear receptive to others talking to you. Put a smile on that face. Look positive. Strive for a confident appearance. Appear as the type of person who has what others seek and appear willing to openly share a minute or two of conversation with them.
In closing, the SHOT Show networking potential extends far beyond the walls of the convention center, or even Las Vegas, for that matter. Once you treat the entire SHOT Show experience as a unique business adventure, you’ll begin to understand how the show can positively change lives from the moment you leave home.
©2014 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.