6 Lessons Learned From My First Business Expo

JenRenPro at Orange County Business Exposition

Oh, the dreaded elevator pitch. In business, and especially marketing, the ability to quickly and effectively tell someone all the amazing things about you is a must if you want to grow your network or land an opportunity.

Happen to have an elevator ride with the owner of the building? Elevator pitch. Suddenly find yourself with a juicy client opportunity and have 3 minutes to pitch before they walk out of the coffee shop? Elevator pitch. Sign up for a business expo? Elevator pitch (on steriods).

Though I was hesitant to participate in the event since I had never done one before, I quickly realized how counter-productive of a state of mind that was. If anyone avoids things they've never done before, you wouldn't be much more than a lifeless potato. Since I reserve potato-ing for Sunday evenings and vacations, I decided to be a productive kickass human being instead. Needless to say, I paid the entry fee and started planning.

Last week, I made my way over to Saddleback College to set up a savvy little booth with over 30 other local Orange County businesses. With nothing more than a laptop, lollipops, and printed promotional materials, here's how I made the most of an otherwise blind entrance to my first Orange County business expo as JenRenPro!

1. Print Handouts

Though I'm obviously a huge fan of technology and operating sans paper, you just can't have enough printed handouts for these types of high-volume, in-person events. 

I HIGHLY recommend using Moo for all your printing needs. Though a little pricier than competitors like Vistaprint, the quality is to die for and I literally get complimented every time I hand out a business card or flyer. 

Oh, and order your materials WAY ahead of time. I sadly ordered a cute custom T-shirt a bit too late, and received it the day after the expo. Single tear moment of silence okay moving on.

2. Conduct Giveaways

If you're going to give away some goods, make it something people actually want. Someone there gave out jar openers, and I truly spent an awkward 7 seconds thinking about the last time I ever needed a jar opener. Answer: never. 

Items I liked receiving: 

  • Pens/Sticky Notes
  • Raffle Entries
  • FOOD

I opted for an even-exchange giveaway by collecting email addresses in exchange for a $100 credit toward any JenRenPro service. 

3. Dress the Part

I don't mean business professional by default, either. You should dress according to your brand. If you're a real estate company, a suit (or something equal) is probably a good idea. If your business is supplying balloons for parties and events, you can get away with something brighter and more casual, maybe even a company T-shirt. For me, I wanted my outfit to show my creative side, and also hint at my Millennial-ness. 

See pics below and let me know if I nailed it. Not Millennial pink, I know, but it'll do.

4. Visit Other Booths

This is half the point, and half the fun! You're not only there to promote yourself, but to build your network. Grab your cards and flyers and get to know the businesses there. It's also cool to see what other businesses in your industry are doing.

5. Know Your Brand & Style Your Table Accordingly

The balloon girl had a balloon arch, the digital marketing girl (guess who) had a 32-inch monitor with a video playing. Before attending your first business expo, ask yourself what people would expect to see after visiting your website or peeking at your portfolio. Bring that 1-dimensional expectation to life.

6. Follow Up!

I cannot emphasize this enough. Because I had my camera at the event, I started to go around and offer to take photos of other businesses, so I could follow up with them (the very next day) with their photos and a personal note. 

When I got home from the event, I took a sticky note to every business card and brochure I picked up so I wouldn't forget who's who and what we talked about. If I waited until a few days later to do so, chances are those details would have faded and my follow-up would lack authenticity. No one wants a generic email or follow-up! 

Thoughts? Have you every been to an expo, and if so, what are some of the biggest learning curves you faced before going? I want to hear all about it!