How to prepare for a business trip? ISPsystem Buzzing Tips
We have been going to conferences for a long time and this is what we noticed: many people come there and - a surprise! - do nothing. They will appoint a couple of meetings, and the rest of the time hang around idle, collect razdatku from the stands or sit at the laptop and listen to everything: even those reports and speeches where they are obviously trying to sell something. What kind of sales and successful negotiations are we talking about? A waste of time, a waste of company money, a parade of missed opportunities. We, too, at one time were wrong a lot, but corrected. Therefore, we want to tell you what we are doing differently. If interested, welcome under the cat!
For us, each trip is an opportunity from which you want to squeeze the maximum. Before the event, we have a clear plan and schedule of meetings, and after - a handful of potential partners and customers with whom we have already established close contact.
IMPORTANT: The material is primarily for those who go to exhibitions and conferences to meet with customers and partners, search for new leads, develop their business, conduct negotiations and networking. But the experience will be useful and if you are going to make a report, gather information, find suppliers or just look.
We will tell:
- how to schedule and schedule meetings
- how to behave in negotiations
- how to use informal meetings (networking),
- how not to forget anything after.
Total scheduled three posts. In the first talk about the preparation for the conference.
about the author
Head of the ISPsystem business development department Pavel Syrovatsky. The company has been developing programs for hosting, server virtualization and infrastructure management of providers for 14 years. Office in Irkutsk, and customers around the world.
What does the conference look like
First, let's look at what a typical conference looks like in our hosting industry (most likely, your situation is about the same).
Zone with stands . Most often, the stands are set by those who want to sell you something: service providers, equipment or software. Put for a high fee.
Area for reports . Experts from different companies share their experience (10%) and sell their product (90%).
Separate zones and conversations for communication . Here you can schedule meetings.
Networking . Usually the organizers provide an opportunity for informal communication: a buffet table, a concert, a dinner.
Duration. The conference lasts from one to several days and takes place in a conference hall. It can be divided into sections of interest.
Deciding on goals
Why are we going to the conference at all? In our case, the goals are (in descending order of importance):
- meetings and negotiations with potential partners and customers,
- meetings and negotiations with current partners and customers,
- new connections and acquaintances (networking)
- familiarization with reports and participation in panel discussions,
- search for potential vendors (those who can offer us something).
According to my observations, the majority of visitors have exactly the opposite order: first, they go and see who offers what on the stands, listen to the reports, and in their free time spend a couple of spontaneous meetings. At first, we did this, too, but then we realized that for business development this is a bad option. Now we act differently. Every hour is worth its weight in gold, so we try to schedule as many meetings as possible. They take up to 80-90% of the time at the conference.
It is possible that in your case everything should be different. Maybe you are going to listen to expert speeches, or you have been asked to find suppliers of equipment. In this case, priorities change.
Create a meeting schedule
If you are on our way (at the first meeting place with potential clients and negotiations), then the next tip is to make an empty (for now) schedule of meetings. The schedule should include all days of the conference, each of which will be divided into slots for appointment.
Yes, meetings will need to be scheduled in advance. The idea to come to the conference without preparation and try to meet someone there / find an interesting client is obviously disastrous.
You can create a graph in Google Spreadsheets, use a ready-made template for Excel, for example, like this . Good Google Calendar or any service convenient for you. The main thing is that he:
- it was clear - by the middle of the day “porridge” would be cooked in my head, and the calendar would help you quickly understand which meeting was on the way and whether there was a place for an unplanned, but important conversation;
- allowed to easily edit and transfer events - meetings move out or are transferred, and on the go;
- worked without the Internet - communication at the exhibition is almost always bad;
- allowed to add and view comments to the meeting - notes in them help you quickly recall the subject of conversation;
- had a mobile version.
Do not rely on memory, it will surely let you down.
We decide who it would be interesting to meet, and contact them. This step is key and will take up most of the preparation for the conference. The order of appointments depends on the priorities defined earlier.
Who are we meeting
Conferences are global and local. If the conference is global, then you can write to anyone who can be there. Even from the other end of the planet. If local, then write first of all to those whose offices are located nearby.
Remember everyone you are negotiating with right now . These are not necessarily your current customers. Rather, those who can become them. Meeting face to face will help to establish personal contact and give a boost to current communication. Such companies willingly agree to a meeting: you know them, they know you, your request will not be cold. Probably more than half will agree to meet if they are there.
Remember who you had negotiated with before, but this led to nothing(You do keep information about all open transactions, right?). The conference is an excellent occasion to write or call these people again and ask if they plan to be on it. Those who will, with a high degree of probability, will agree to meet with you, because they already know you. It happened here that such a meeting enlivened the seemingly “dead” negotiations.
Did not communicate, but we can
Use the conference as a reason to meet.
It makes sense to search among those who are always in sight. At large and well-known conferences there are representatives of the largest companies that can become your clients. If there are contacts of their employees, you can write and ask who will be from them at this conference. If you have good acquaintances in these organizations, just ask to connect you with colleagues who will go to the conference. Usually no one refuses and willingly shares at least names, all that remains is to find the contact of a person.
Do not forget about the geographical location of the conference. Are you from Moscow, and the conference is held in Frankfurt? See if there are companies in and around Frankfurt that you are interested in and may be interested in your services. Most likely, if the conference also relates to their activities, they will be there. If not, then we can offer to meet in their office. At the dawn of our trips, we neglected to search by geographic location. Now we always reserve 1-2 days before and after the conference itself, during which we hold separate meetings and negotiations in or around the city.
Conference speakers and attendees
Often, a list of past visitors is published on the conference website. If among them there are people interesting to you, contact them. Most likely they will be this year.
Ideal when the conference is divided with the entire list of registered , but it happens rarely. If it is divided, then it is excellent: regularly review the list, monitor those you are interested in, look for their contacts and get in touch. If there is no list, do not hesitate to ask the organizers for it: usually no one asks, and, quite possibly, the organizers will provide it to you as the bravest (we have this happened a couple of times).
Check out the list of speakers , partners, sponsors and those who exhibit with a booth this year. Perhaps among them will be several companies that are interesting to you as potential customers.
The question of how to look for contacts of people whom you do not know (and who do not know you) does not appear in this article. This is a separate story. In our case, social networks work well (Facebook in Russia, LinkedIn). It is often possible to find the email of a person in the public domain.
In the end, there are current customers and partners. Write to all key clients, ask if they will go to the conference. If you go, offer to meet to discuss the accumulated questions and problems. Previously, we paid too little attention to such meetings, but in vain. This is a great opportunity to strengthen relationships. It happened that a client or partner was not going to the conference at all, but when he found out that we were going, registered and came to discuss the backlog.
Who to meet: people
What posts do you have with people? It depends on at least two factors.
What do we want to discuss? If business and cooperation, we are always looking for meetings with any decision maker (most often it is the director, head of the procurement department, people responsible for the business and its development). If the technical features, it is better to look for a technical or IT-director.
How big is the company?If a company of several thousand people, it may be difficult to get in touch with senior management. Better look for meetings with project managers that interest you. But if the company is from SMB, then boldly make an appointment with the tops. These people make decisions, you need to be interested in them in the first place, and the likelihood that they will agree to meet with you is much higher than in the case of large companies.
Unfortunately, most often you will not have much choice. In most cases, only one person from the company goes to the conference, and he is not at all the one you need. What to do in this situation? We prefer to make an appointment anyway. So you can meet, learn more about their company needs and ask to associate with the right people. The main thing is to honestly inform the person in advance about the topic of conversation.
Warning: do not schedule appointments with everyone. If you are not sure that there will be any sense from the meeting or you assume that it may worsen the current situation - do not waste your time and colleagues time.
Time: when to appoint, how much to set aside for meetings, what to do at lunch
When to make appointments
It is better to start making appointments two to three weeks before the conference. If you write earlier, most likely, you will receive too many answers in the style of "I have not yet decided whether I will go." If you start contacting people later, there is a danger that there will be too little time before the conference and the schedules of many visitors, especially the speakers, will already be clogged.
How much time to devote to meetings
A very important question. If you take too little time - the whole schedule will leave a little lateness or bias of the meeting, too much - there will be a big pause between meetings, during which there will be nothing to do.
At first, we set aside a maximum of 30 minutes for one meeting and tried to hold at least 20 meetings per day. One delay, one man late for a meeting, and everything went awry. By the middle of the day, the schedule became irrelevant, we had to massively transfer all the meetings, some of them were canceled. Now we assign for each meeting 30-60 minutes. For example, if the conference goes from 9:00 to 18:00, then it turns out 10-15 meetings per day, no more.
Much depends on the subject. Want to discuss a series of issues and pressing issues with your current partner? 30 minutes will be clearly not enough, lay at least an hour. Have you made an appointment with a company that knows nothing about you and who agreed to just chat and learn more about your product? Most likely, enough for half an hour. If you are interested in them, they will go exploring the site and all communication will go online.
Do I have to leave small intervals between meetings just in case? As before, we make appointments close to each other, without pauses between them. But now we leave at least one half-hour free slot every two hours. Such a half-hour pillow makes it possible in case of anything to level the schedule and take a breath. If the schedule goes, the collapse does not happen.
We recommend to drive at least two. If something goes wrong, the partner can always take on another meeting. You can make two schedules of meetings, one for each - then there will be more meetings. However, in this case, we recommend creating more free slots.
What to do at lunch
Sometimes the schedule of meetings becomes so tight that there is not enough time for lunch. In this case, we recommend inviting the interviewee to chat at lunch. You will have time to have a bite, and you will spend time effectively. In addition, a joint meal really has to talk. In our experience, meetings at dinner are some of the most effective and positive.
Where to make appointments?
Stand there you
If you have a stand - excellent, schedule meetings on it. Just check with the organizers in advance its location and number. Make sure the number does not change.
At one of the first conferences, the organizers gave our booth number F11. Accordingly, we invited everyone to F11. Already on the spot it turned out that the stand is where it is needed, but now it is number G11. And under F11 stand another company at the other end of the hall. I had to urgently send notifications and ask my colleagues on F11 to send all the lost people to us.
a stand. Make an appointment at the stand of the company you meet with, if they have one. An important point: always agree on a clear time and place of the meeting.
Do not agree, when the interlocutor says: “just come up to the stand at any time, I will be glad to talk”. He is either uninteresting and he agreed for a tick, or interesting, but without an appointment, he will safely forget about the meeting. And if you do not forget, you will be busy communicating with customers and potential leads, and you still will not be able to approach it.
Without a mark in the schedule, you yourself can easily forget about the meeting (we used to have it). Therefore, always send an invite by mail or calendar and ask the person to accept it, add it to your schedule and confirm the meeting at the appointed hour. And also we advise you to demand a phone number from a person - it will be useful if he nevertheless forgets about the meeting.
No one has a stand
More often it happens. It does not matter. Pre-examine the conference map (usually on the website) and select the largest stand, or a stand of a very well-known company in your field, preferably closer to the entrance, or in the center in a prominent place. Make an appointment at this stand by first sending a screenshot of the map with the designated location to the person along with the invite. Most likely, this stand will be very noticeable, and your colleague will easily find it. Another good option is to meet at the reception. Nobody will miss it for sure.
Fill out the schedule
As a result of the preparation, you should have a meeting schedule, which will be filled to 70-80%, 10-15 meetings per day. If there are slots left, it's okay: often, either you meet new people at the conference, or you are introduced to someone, or those you offered to meet two weeks ago answer. Free slots just give flexibility and allow you to assign late meetings.
Phew, sort of touched the main points. Finally, I repeat that this is our approach. Are you different? Do you use completely different approaches? Our advice does not work in your case? Great, share your experiences in the comments! It will be very interesting to exchange practices.
In the next part I will tell you what is happening at the conference itself, how to behave at the meetings and what to do if everything is bad and goes according to plan.
So, what should be done at the stage of preparing for a business trip to the conference?
- Decide on goals. What are you going to this conference for?
- Create a meeting schedule. Make sure that you can view and edit the schedule from your phone and without the Internet.
- Examine the conference schedule. Decide on the reports and speeches that you definitely want to listen to. Make them into the schedule of meetings as untouchable.
- Make a list of companies you would like to meet:
- Find the names and contacts of the people you need in these companies.
- Decide on the place where you will make appointments (stand, reception, at the entrance, other).
- Start contacting and making appointments. Schedule meetings and information about them.