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Seven Tips for Rocking Your Next Fair

Even in the digital age, personal contacts remain a must. If you need partners or investors, trade fairs are where to look. How can you draw them in right?

25 Jan. 2016

1. Frame your presentation in emotional terms
Raw facts are not a good tool for winning the hearts and minds of potential customers or investors. In the hectic flow of a trade fair, first impressions are what count. Standing out is decisive for success. Use the lead-up to the fair to work out just how you'll frame your product, entertainingly and emotionally. What is the vision behind the features? AirBnb for example isn't just a portal for renting private accommodations (yawn), but rather that at-home feeling anywhere in the world. Storytelling sells. One example is App developer smapOne, who last year built 2,500 paper airplanes with their visitors at last year's CeBIT — and then let them compete with one another.

2. Use a good mood as a door opener
Sure, this sounds completely banal. But you wouldn't believe how many entrepreneurs stand stiffly behind the podium at the first trade fair stand, waiting for someone to talk to them. Do you have someone on your team with a knack for getting people talking and interest? Get them up front, asap! Be forward but charming — it's a winning combination. And having a decent icebreaker or two isn't a bad idea either.

3. Tailor your message to the target audience
What are you hoping to achieve through your trade fair appearance? Find new customers? Investors? Business partners? Each target audience has different needs and interests. Your trade fair stand and promotional materials need to account for this. This is especially crucial if you're giving a talk or even have the chance to make a pitch to investors. Forget about the lame list of features and instead focus on clear, immediately comprehensive examples of applications. Don't waste your visitors' time. Get right to the core of your message in plain words.

4. Be yourself
Don't put on a tie if you never do so otherwise. Don't try to be hip when you're selling insurance products. Customers and investors are drawn to people who radiate authenticity, not pandering.

5. Embrace Old School: Stock up on business cards
Your rhythms may revolve around your smartphone, the Cloud, social networks and contacts on Xing and LinkedIn. But for many business people the good old-fashioned business card is still just as much an expected tool-of-the-trade as it was 20 years ago. After all: those little babies somehow always magically reappear in the pocket of your new contact when they are back in their office organizing their notes. Use an attention-getting design of unusual material (wood! metal! translucent plastic!) to grab and retain their attention.

6. Keep on the ball after the fair is over
You should start tracking all your new contacts systematically while the fair is still running, such as using a 'lead' app. Who expressed interest in the product? With whom did you talk on the phone, or agree to add on XING, and whom did you promise an email with background info? As soon as the fair is over, send out a thank you/reminder note — and not a mass mailing, but rather a personal comment referencing how you met. Don't use this to spam your services. It's not welcome. But a quick hello on LinkedIn or post card is fine and friendly.

7. Analyze. Analyze. Analyze.
Review your performance at the earliest possible point. What could have been handled better? Did the costs reasonably justify the benefits? Which goals did you achieve, and which ones failed? Note: the raw number of contacts gleaned doesn't usually tell the whole story. if you made quality contacts and got a feel for what the competition is up to, then your trade fair appearance was probably worth the effort.

These seven tips are a good start to making your next trade fair appearance a success. But the question remains: Where should you exhibit? IT-related startups should have a closer look at SCALE11. This area of the CeBIT is dedicated to bringing together young entrepreneurs and accelerators, incubators and venture capitalists.

More about SCALE11