Trade shows and conventions are a big part of the legal cannabis industry landscape. The best events offer great opportunities for industry veterans, novices, policymakers and influencers to network productively with colleagues and potential business partners, learn about the latest industry developments and generate promising new leads.
But let’s face it, B2B trade shows are massive events with thousands of attendees, and it’s easy to get lost in the commotion if you’re not working hard to make memorable first impressions.
Devising attention-grabbing strategies is a specialty of mine, as a visual-minded graphic designer who’s organized and manned booths at numerous conferences and expos in the cannabis and action-sports sectors. And here are some secrets worth sharing:
1. Focus on the “wow” factor.
Never underestimate the power of visuals at trade shows. With so many businesses vying for attention, one of the most effective ways to cut through the noise is to create a booth that stands out from the rest.
Establishing a memorable presence slows down the walk-through traffic, which will help you connect with prospective business partners and clients. Invest some time, thought and resources to create attention-grabbing visuals that draw people to you. You want passersby to wonder, “What are all those people looking at over there?”
Creative visuals and head-turning designs are a key first step toward making your booth a place that people want to be. But once you’ve compelled people to take notice, you want them to stick around for a bit. Added comforts like seating, snacks and beverages can be really effective. And offering access to tastemakers and thought leaders, or setting up interactive games and hands-on activities, are all great ways to start a conversation.
2. Have a networking strategy.
Making connections and speaking face-to-face with potential clients and partners are essential to your business development efforts at cannabis conventions and expos. It pays to do some homework and outreach before the big event. Research other companies that will be displaying booths and speakers whom you’re inspired by, or who you’d like to connect with.
If you can nail down meetings beforehand, you’re already closer to your goal of making a positive impression and forging new, potentially lucrative business partnerships. Since trade shows and networking events are pretty noisy, reserving a private room or scoping out somewhere quiet near the show floor where you can take meetings will make it easier to create meaningful connections and have quality conversations. You’ll have a better chance of closing deals if you can limit distractions and talk one-on-one with people who are interested in your product or service.
You’ll also want to nail down your 30-second “elevator pitch.” It can be hard to focus at these bustling events, and you only have a brief moment to reel people in. Effective elevator pitches should quickly and enthusiastically describe what your product or service is and how it can help that individual or their business.
Once you’ve figured out what to say, practice, practice, practice. And make sure you’re comfortable giving your pitch before you set foot on the trade show floor. This is especially important if you’re unable to reserve a private meeting room, because you’re going to have to keep people’s attention amid the chaos.
3: Seal the deal with thoughtful takeaways.
Handing out cost-effective swag like pens, stickers and keychains is good for generating lots of brand exposure. But if you want to really attract quality leads and leave lasting impressions, investing in unique, innovative and slightly higher value promo items is an easy way to set your company apart from the pack.
If your company has an interesting mascot or logo, consider getting some plush items made, or beanies or water bottles. If your brand is fun and playful, perhaps a branded puzzle or brain teaser might be a clever, appropriate giveaway. Tech-oriented companies might consider handing out branded phone cases or webcam covers. Get creative. Your merch should be a reflection of your company’s values and mission. And of course, passing out free samples of your company’s products (unmedicated for trade shows) is another effective route to take.
When you plan ahead, B2B trade shows are well worth your effort and expense.