Here’s what I learned about doing a “trade show” (Written as I flew back from Pittsburgh on Saturday night):
Well, I just did my very first booth as a vendor at a trade show….and I sure learned a lot.
A little background (even though you think you know me):
- I am an introvert. This means that I get energy and ideas from being alone (whereas an extrovert gets energy from being with others). The other side of this is that it takes energy for me to interact with others—especially if there are lots of “others.” When I go to conferences, my tendency is to sit by myself (on the edge of a row), to interact as little as possible, and to spend lots of time in my room so that I can digest what I’ve learned and recoup the energy expended by being around lots of people in the sessions and at meals (if I’ve even attended the meal gatherings).
- As confident as I seem, it still scares me to death to “put myself out there.” I consider displaying at a vendor table at a conference to be putting myself out there (and out there way beyond my comfort zone).
So….I did it. I attended the POD (Professional Organizational Development) Conference this past week in Pittsburgh, PA. These are professor types who have the same job that I used to have at the University of Nevada, Reno when I was the Director of the Excellence in Teaching Program (where I taught professors how to be the best teachers they could be). It’s an impressive, scholarly group…and although I am a part of the group, the insecure part of me worries.
And besides attending—I signed up for a vendor table. On Friday afternoon, from 2:00 – 6:00, I had a 2’ x 8’ table (alongside 12 other vendors, including a coach for professors, a nationally-known consultant for universities, and many publishers of materials for professors).
- A huge sign for the Make a Difference (and Make Money) Teaching Teachers seminars;
- My letter openers;
- Postcards—every single one I’ve ever sent out to members of this group;
- Various items that I give out in my workshops (signs, etc.).
- Handouts about the Top Ten Productivity Tips (www.TopTenProductivityTips.com) and Keys to Keeping Chaos at Bay (www.KeepingChaosatBay.com);
- Oh…and candy since it was close to Halloween…and who doesn’t like M&Ms, Snickers, etc?
I had nifty little wooden stands that I got at Wal-Mart and Bed, Bath, and Beyond so that my postcards weren’t just lying flat on the table. They were standing right up there so people could see them.
And because I was an early (maybe the first!) person to sign up for a vendor table, I had the table that could be seen the minute anyone walked through the door.
And it worked! For the first time, for sure, I had sense that all my marketing over the years has been worth it! People remembered what I had sent out! They caught sight of one or more of the postcards and said, “I have that postcard on my refrigerator,” or “I have that postcard on my office door.” Some people said, “Oh, you are the person who sends us all these cool things?!” There were comments on how colorful my materials are, how well-designed they are, how much they like them….and oh, what do I do, by the way?
It was awesome! I got to talk to people about why I send what I send, the different workshops I have that I could do at their colleges or universities, ways that they could get in touch with me if they want to, and so on and so on….
By the end of the four hours, I was about to fall over, but when I got to my room and called my husband, I was exhilarated, too. I told him, “This is exactly what I was hoping would happen.”
- Marketing over time works. It especially works if whatever it is that you do somehow fits together. Mine does and people recognized it.
- Building relationships in this 21st century world is different and interesting. People felt like they knew me because they subscribe to the Top Ten Productivity Tips or Keeping Chaos at Bay. And then when they found out others standing around also subscribed, they were a little community and they talked about which ones they like the best and what they do with them when they arrive in their in-box.
- Getting to put a real face/person with the marketing materials was positive. Now they really can see who it is that is sending them things and realize that I am a real person and that I do want to assist them as individuals or the professors and staff at their colleges and universities.
- Getting to really talk to people F2F allowed me to know them better and for them to find out more about who I am and what I might be able to bring to them. It did it in a way that no flat piece of mail could.
- We are marketing ourselves. Make no mistake about that. It doesn’t matter if you’re a professor, a teacher, an entrepreneur, an author, a coach…you are marketing yourself. Our materials have to match who we are and what we represent.
I learned lots more, but my laptop battery ran out on the plane and I’m finishing this up this morning (Monday, October 29, 2007) so I can get it posted.
Suffice it to say, I learned a lot and I’ll be getting a vendor booth at next year’s POD conference, the minute they are announced. I might even have a table at an upcoming eWomenNetwork event, too.