7.17.2009

ORSM: When the conversation ends

Top Ten Questions You’ll Hear at Outdoor Retailer:

10 How’s business?
9. How’s business?
8 How’s business?
7. How’s business?
6 How’s business?
5. How’s business?
4 How’s business?
3 How’s business?
2 How’s business?
1. Where’s the bar?

The key to a successful Outdoor Retailer … or any trade show, for that matter … is knowing what your conversation is going to be.

Regardless of tenure or status, the thread of tradeshow conversation is the pathway to the heart of your brand.

In other words, what you choose to talk about in a place full of people talking is more than just a reflection of your reputation and raison d’etre. It’s the chili on your hot dog.

And if you don’t know what to put on that dog … trust me, it’s going to be a long show.

Once upon a time in the pre-grunge 90s, I set super specific goals for tradeshows. Stuff like “who I want to meet,” and “what I want to achieve with those people.”

But the downside of hyperlocal goals is that they’re reactive. They depend on things far outside of the realm of your mojo: stuff like missed air connections or the swine flu or a last minute decision to “not attend the show because I want to spend more time with my family.”

And when you’ve failed to achieve your goal at the biggest industry event of the year because some dude was out too late at Burt's Tiki Lounge, it can be a long flight home.

Besides, one of the greatest parts of OR are the surprise special guests that you never in a million years would've put on your pre-show goals.

So, I changed my trade show thinking -- and my results -- by focusing on what I could control. Namely, I started focusing on what I was talking about ... what I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it, and the type of people I wanted to say it to.

A trade show is the ultimate cocktail party, one that starts early, ends late, and follows you wherever you go. To reap the many benefits available to you at a trade event, you’ve got to be able to make the most of the crowd. You’ve got to know when to talk, what to say, and -- perhaps most importantly -- when to shut up (insert cheesy Kenny Rogers sing-along ballad here).

See you in SLC.

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