On the Road in Cheesesteak City
By Lois K. Geller
Last week, I got lucky. I went to Philadelphia, my hometown, where I haven't been in ages (except for quick trips for meetings). My son, Paul, drove me because I'd broken my foot a week earlier racing for a cab.
I'd been invited to deliver the keynote speech at the Philadelphia Direct Marketing Association (PDMA) Conference. I give many speeches, and I've discovered that I get a pretty good impression of a group months before the actual event. I had a great feeling about the PDMA, because the organizers were terrific. So I wasn't surprised—as Paul supported me through a very slow tour of the exhibit hall—that I met many interesting people.
Later, as we drove home to New York, Paul and I talked about some of the things Target Marketing readers might want to consider regarding trade shows, such as the upcoming Direct Marketing Association's annual conference in Orlando. Here are some ideas:
1. Make your own luck. Contact the people you want to meet ahead of time, either to set up a meeting or to invite them to your booth or party. And make it something creative. Send them an invitation with their picture on it, or maybe an interesting postcard from your city. I'm not talking about the incredibly boring mailings many exhibitors send out to lure you to their booths (e.g., "Come see the latest, client-focused, integrated, solution-related, competitively priced, collaborative geegaw at Booth 9876."). Try different formats, offers and creative approaches to see what people respond to, and remember to give them a reason to respond.
2. Determine how you want to spend your time. You need a plan. You want to attend specific sessions, and go to the exhibit hall and meet with particular companies. You want to have lunch with so and so, a drink with this fellow, a coffee break with that lady and dinner with these folks. Make a plan and stick to it.