Surviving the Show: 101

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I’ve been on my flight for 15 minutes. Left LaGuardia with an on-time departure and the flight crew has informed us it’s safe to use our electronic devices. I have survived Affiliate Summit East and Leads Con neatly intact. So long New York. See ya in November for ad:tech…

Tis the Season

For those of us in the Performance Marketing Space, August marks the beginning of the Fall “Conference Season” – Kicking off with Affiliate Summit East as it has for the past 10 years, and then shifting into overdrive with the addition of Leads Con followed by a couple of conferences per month for the remainder of the year.

This year’s Affiliate Summit was particularly productive for me. I made some great contacts, strengthened existing relationships and am bringing back with me a wealth of ideas and new perspectives that I didn’t have when I landed just 4 days before. I also know that this is not all I’m bringing back with me….

I sit here in my cozy window seat I feel the familiar onset of what I have lovingly come to refer to as “The Conference Crud”… Some of you reading this know exactly what I am talking about without even pausing to think. If this is you, you can stop reading now. You are the veterans who know the drill. If you’ve got a good “AdTech 2009” story of your own this article is not for you. I’m sure you have a rock solid handle on getting through these shows unscathed and there is not likely much I can tell you that you don’t already know. For the rest of you – Read on. You might thank me some day.

What to Know Before You Go

  1. Set Meetings Ahead – Companies spend good money to send attendees to these conferences. The attendees are sent there to get business done. If there is someone attending that you really want to meet with, take the time to reach out and schedule an appointment ahead of time. You can’t assume that just because someone is attending the same show as you this means they have time on their schedule for you. You may see someone 10 times in the course of a show but if they’re busy every time it does you no good. On the other side of that coin, there is a good chance that you may never randomly run into those people you are dying to meet. Seek out the attendees you want to meet– break the ice ahead of time, and be respectful of their time by requesting a meeting. Then stick to that meeting.
  2. Do Your Homework – For the love of all that is good and holy – please, I beg of you, PLEASE don’t get your hands on the attendee list and start sending out impersonal and irrelevant meeting requests just to fill up your meeting quota. I will go out on a limb here and assume that any company attending a digital tech show probably has a handy little website for your researching pleasure. Look at the companies in attendance; take the time to know who they are and what they do and then decide if it looks like a company you can do business with. To do it any other way is wasting their time, as well as your own… Also, the thing about us old timers who have been doing this a while – We talk. We talk a lot. And we love to tell stories about people who make this mistake. So.. if this is you and your ears have been burning ever since the show wrapped, well now you know.
  3. Don’t Sweat it. No, seriously. Don’t be that guy/girl. You are going to spend a lot of time in close quarters and often in poorly ventilated spaces. There will be hundreds, if not thousands of other people sharing that space with you. Good hygiene goes without saying, so I won’t insult anyone here with a “pro tip” on packing deodorant. You either know that or you don’t. No article on the matter is going to help you if you fall into the latter category. But this information might: Pack and dress properly for BOTH the event as well as the various climates that are outside of your control. If the place is sweltering hot – You can’t just ask someone to turn the air up. If the place is freezing cold, no one is going to adjust the heat on your behalf either. Layers people. Pack and dress so that what you slip on in the morning could be easily transitioned for comfort whether the temperature shoots up or down by 10-15 degrees throughout the day – and it really might.
    • Quick Tip For the Ladies – I know those Louboutin shoes are dying to get out and be seen. Save them for the evening there will be plenty of social events to dress pretty and show off your style – Keep comfort in mind during the day while you are on the show floor.
    • For the Gentlemen out there – This is a casual industry so pretty much anything goes. Trust me when I say it wouldn’t hurt you to have at least one shirt with a collar and a pair of pants that don’t look like they were just rescued from an overstuffed dryer. You are not going to lose your “edge” because you look well put together.

    “So you did your homework, you scheduled your meetings and you packed a sweater. Now what? “

  4. Stay in the conference hotel – If your goal is to meet people and make connections stay where the rest of the conference is. The conference event center is only half of the action. You’ll be surprised at how many connections you can make in the elevator, in the lobby and in the hotel bar at night. In our industry just as many deals are closed on a bar stool at 11pm as there are in boardrooms at 10am. **Disclaimer – If you cringe at the thought of being socially “on” all the time or don’t want to be accosted on your way back to your room for a breather – there is nothing wrong with staying at a nearby hotel that allows you some peace and a comfortable distance from the chaos. You know your comfort zone best so keep these things in mind when booking.
  5. Everything in Moderation – We work in this great little bubble where Advertising Swank and Glorious Tech Nerdary not only coexist, they collide in remarkable ways. So there are going to be some parties…
  6. If you drink, great, have a cocktail. No one expects you to abstain. If you do not drink, don’t feel pressured and trust me, now is not a good time to start. Just be yourself and you’ll do great. If you fall into the former category and enjoy a nice scotch now and again please remember that even if this party is at a nightclub in the middle of midtown, you are still here for work. This is a professional setting even if it looks like the furthest thing from it. It is very easy to blur the line and forget that the people around you are your peers, your colleagues, your clients and even your competitors. Don’t lose sight of that.

  7. Don’t Flake – If You have scheduled meetings have respect for others times and show up on time or as close as you possibly can. Its not unusual for people to get stuck in conversations that keep you running a few minutes behind all day. Being a few minutes late is forgiven. Not showing at all is simply rude. We are all tethered to our devices. If you genuinely can not make a meeting – Send a text and reschedule. Free that time up so that they can be productive as well.
  8. Follow Up – After all your meetings and chance run ins you will hopefully have a pretty sizable number of business cards to go through. Make sure to set aside some time to go through it all at home or back at the office ASAP. Reach Out, Follow Up, Keep the conversations going. Those connections you have made are valuable stay on it while it is relevant and make all your work at the conference count.

Working Through the aftermath…

So you’re back in the office and you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck? First you should know that “The Conference Crud” is not uncommon. You’ve just spent days on end just talking; talking through meetings, greetings, introductions, presentations or panels. You’ll see it’s not easy to find a quiet moment throughout the show. Factor in those decadent lunches/dinners and a string of late night social mixers followed by early morning meetings where you start the whole process over again.

The real kicker is that the mental and physical toll from this will get paid later. Not during the show while you feel great and are giving it your all. Nope it will hit you later when the adrenaline has left and you are faced with the important task of turning your effort at the conference into some measureable results back in the office. You are not alone – Half the conference attendees are now back home with half a voice and a full on splitting headache and like you – they are chewing vitamin C caps and powering through. It’s what I am doing as I type this and lay out my follow up plan. Trust me, you got this.

Happy Conference Season. May the odds be ever in your favor.

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