Sooner or later every blogger who is concious about his or her career growth comes to a point when visiting a travel trade fair becomes part of the job. I don't need to explain much - trade fair is the best way to connect to brands and companies, to discuss new opportunities, to present your services and to meet your fellow blogger mates.
But as with every new step we are sometimes unsure what to start with. How to prepare yourself for the visit? What to expect? How to present yourself? These and many other questions were buzzing through my head after signing up for the ITB in Berlin this year. It was my first travel expo experience where I went as a blogger, not as regular visitor. And I have to say I'm very content with the result.
So if you don't know where to start your preparations, let me share with you my tips to help you prepare yourself for your first travel trade fair visit.
before hand preparations
I'm going to talk about my ITB experience, but the same strategy works pretty much everywhere.
After you decided to which expo to attend what to do next?
ACCREDITATION If you are keen on obtaining all the advantages bloggers have at trade fairs you need to accreditate yourself. This means that you have to present all the accurate and latest statistics about your blog. Every travel trade fair has it's own accreditation procedures normally stated on their official web page. Accreditation would give you an access ot the fairgrounds throughout the entire event. Usually for free. This is a great opportunity to spend time at the expo during the business days. You can get your accresitation on-line or directly at the fairgrounds. I would recommend the on-line version, since it will save you time and also enrolls you to use the extra services (see next step).
CHECK FOR EXTRA BLOGGER SERVICES Some expos offer extra opportunities for bloggers to get noticed and to make new connections. At ITB you could sign up for a Blogger Speed Dating and Virtual Market Place - a great way to get noticed and to start your preparations for a trade fair.
PREPARE YOURSELF Being at an expo you want to show your work in the best possible way, which requires some beforehand preparations:
- prepare business cards Be sure to pack enough of these - you will be using them a lot. I got mine at Moo.
- prepare a media kit It should include the services you offer and all the relevant information and statistics about your blog.
- prepare portfolio You can create a video presentation talking about your work or a printed version. I ordered mine over Blurrb.
TIP 1: Don't go only digital! Prepare printed materials as well! First of all, many decision making specialists still belong to an older generation who feel more comfortable with turning the pages than with scrolling through a screen. Second, your device can simply run out of battery or loose the connection. It's always best to have a back up.
I printed one portfolio booklet which I brough with me without even taking my laptop. It was easy, light and it presented my work very well.
TIP 2: Don't exaggerate! Don't try to create too many presentations. One is more than enough as long as it clearly states who are you, what are you blogging about and what services you are offering. Try to work on quality than quantity. As I already mentioned above I had one hard cover portfolio book and a set of business cards. That's it and that was enough!
- plan you visit It is better to go to an expo with a plan on what and who you want to meet and what services you are interested in. As soon as you are there you will be overwhelmed with the amount and the information and won't have time to think clearly. Some of the best way to prepare yourself it to go through the trade fair ehxibitors list and map out the ones you want to connect.
- make appointments It's best to arrange all the meetings and appoinments before hand. It will save you and your clients a lot of time and also will help you to structure your visit. Usually all the contacts of the companies representatives are listed on the expo catalog.
- plan enough time for every appointment Don't forget that even though some people talk fast you will still need enough time to present your work and dicuss cooperation possibilities. Not to forget walking time from booth to booth. 45 min per meeting should be enough. Less might get you into a time stress.
- create a schedule It's important to plan your visit, because usually time flies by way too fast. Be sure to leave some time for presentations and workshops which might be useful for your blog. Not to forget about chats with your fellow blogger colleagues. Having a schedule will also help you better coordinate your time.
- prioritize You won't be able to talk to everyboday and to see everything, so try to set clear goals. What meetings go first, which go second and which could be skipped.
- don't waste your time and the time of others Agree only to meet people who are useful for your work. If you blog is about backpaking in Europe you don't need to arrange a meeting with a hotel in Senegal. Contacts and cooperations are profitable only if both parties can benefit from them!
at the trade expo
After you are done with official preparations you might question yourself on how to behave while at an expo.
- dress properly By saying that I don't mean that you have to wear your finest dress or a suit, but dress so you look representative and professional. In many countires outfit is still an important part of the decision process, so save your leopard pants and stretched "I love Bintang beer" shirt for later. The most important rule though is that whatever you wear you feel comfortable in it! From what I noticed casual style was one of the most popular dress codes throughout the trade fair. I also went casual - a shirt and a pair of pants. Comfortable shoes are a must - your feet will say thank you after walking endless amounts of km's through the fairground.
- arrive on time Time is precious and everyone has tight business schedule when at an expo. Plan enough walking time to show up at the time of your appointment!
- take an extra bag No, it's not a joke. You will get brochures, pamphlets and guides as well as souveniers from almost every booth you visit. It is handy to have an extra bag to put all the stuff into. I am not a fan of carrying heavy weights, so I tried to stay light, but my backpack got twice as heavy by the end of the day anyway.
- talk to people Some of the best work offers I got spontaneously, simply telling a person at a booth "Hey, my name is Aexandra. Do you work with bloggers?" Don't be afraid to ask and talk about your work - that's the reason you are here! Some might have a time slot for a chat, some will ask you to come later, some might ask you to leave your business card for a later contact, some might never heard of bloggers, but it's always worth a try!
- small booth doesn't mean small business Don't judge by appearance. Some booths might look poorly decorated, but it doesn't mean that they don't have budget. It's worth checking out smaller companies, since they are the ones usually looking for more social media presence.
- attend evening events Another great way for getting to know people and possible clients. Most of the bigger trade fair representatives host evening events - some are by invitation only, some are open for everyone.
after the trade expo
- follow up After some time has passed (a week or so) don't forget to write to everyone you met on a trade fair and say "thank you" or forward your media kit. It's a good reminder and a chance to continue what you agreed upon.
Feel free to share your experiences and tips on expo visits - I'm always ears! Happy blogging!