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Exhibitors to attendees, networking efficiently takes finesse

If you miss the Mississippi Business and Technology EXPO 2006, you’ll have to wait another year before you have the opportunity to mingle with nearly 5,000 of the state’s top movers and shakers and decision-makers.

“Networking at EXPO broadens horizons and opens up doors of opportunity on many different levels,” said Jeanie Malouf, broker/owner of Jeanie Malouf Real Estate in Brandon, one of Mississippi’s Leading Mississippi Business Women and an experienced EXPO attendee.

But covering the necessary ground on red-letter networking days — January 18-19 at the Mississippi Trademart — to visit 200 exhibits and attend up to four special events and 10 free seminars calls for solid time management and good common sense.

EXPO attendees, to maximize your time and investment, here are a few do’s and don’ts:

Do…

• Present yourself in a professional manner.

• Consider wearing a loose jacket with two pockets, one for outgoing business cards and another for incoming business cards.

• Stash in your pocket three times as many business cards as you think you’ll need, including enough for drawings. Exhibitors and sponsors have donated many door prizes, and drawings will be held every half hour.

• Wear comfortable but stylish shoes.

• Bring hand sanitizer. It’s flu season!

• Target business leaders and exhibitors you want to meet.

• Remember that some of the best contacts are made while waiting in line.

• Attend a few seminars and special events, no matter how tired you are.

• Jot down relevant information and ideas immediately that will impact your business in a positive way. Otherwise, information overload will drown the details.

• Have fun! Attending the EXPO is a great way to start the new year!

Don’t…

• Wear blue jeans unless you do not need to advance your career.

• Wear high heels. You’ll be covering 65,000 square feet of carpet.

• Attempt to distribute résumés.

• Keep conversations lingering. Instead, make social appointments with contacts to capitalize on your limited time.

• Smoke, chew gum or spit.

• Dump food or drinks at exhibitors’ display tables. Large trash dispensers are located throughout the exhibit hall.

• Solicit other attendees in the aisles.

• Forget to put your cell phone on vibrate or silent for more effective communication with vendors.

Exhibitors, here are some suggestions for a successful exhibition:

Do…

• Determine your objectives before the EXPO. Develop sales leads? Demonstrate and introduce new products? Enhance your company image? Gain customer feedback?

• Coordinate your sales team and booth schedule.

• Send out free EXPO tickets to your customers before the two-day event. They’ll consider it a gift.

• Create enthusiasm by establishing incentives among booth participants, ranging from most appointments made to best attitude.

• Have at least one representative meet all other EXPO exhibitors during slow periods. They’re prospects, too!

• Dress appropriately, to reflect the image of your company.

Don’t…

• Clutter your booth. Target what you sell.

• Leave food and drink in the booth. It’s a turn-off to customers.

• Ignore customers by chatting with buddies that drop by to say hello.

• Do anything you wouldn’t do during an important sales presentation.

• Use the table as a blockade to keep out customers. Make them feel welcome.

• Be overly aggressive or rude.

• Forget to follow up immediately after the show.

• Let your leads get cold. Close the sale!

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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