Trade show success: Visitor victoriesGary Oppertrade shows, networking This article will benefit both new mortgage professionals and experienced ones alike. It will help new mortgage professionals get the most out of a trade show and help experienced mortgage professionals take a fresh look at how to have a successful trade show experience. If you are going to a trade show primarily to get free vendor giveaways, stop wasting your time. Go to the dollar store. Trade shows are serious events for you to attend in order to find new products, learn and network. The following will help you maximize your time at a trade show. Nametag Let people know who you are! You should wear a nametag that has your company name, name and possibly company logo and slogan. Better yet, make permanent, professional nametags for you and your employees. Since you shake hands with your right hand, you will naturally turn your right side toward your prospect. Your nametag should be worn high on your right side. A vendor can read your nametag better here than if it's on your left shoulder, lower torso, belt or some other place. As you shake a hand, introduce yourself with your name and ask for the exhibitors name. Wants-and-needs list Make a wants-and-needs list of what you would like to see at the trade show, including products, services and specific companies and individuals. What products are you missing? Do you need a new FHA lender? Do you need to find several niche lenders? Write down all of the products you want or need to learn about. What services do you need? Do you need a new closing agent or appraiser? Do you need a Web site designer? Do you need to find out about some new technology? What companies and individuals do you want to meet? Who have you dealt with in the past year that you would finally like to meet in person? What companies or individuals would you like to explore doing business with? Now that you have an extensive list of what you want to get out of the exhibitors, you know exactly what you want to do at the trade show. Take a copy of the trade show exhibitors list and simply mark the vendors and their locations that correspond to your wants-and-needs list. Next, reorganize the list in aisle order or mark a map. When you walk down a particular aisle at the trade show, you will know exactly which vendors you want to see. Write down your questions or comments for each exhibitor so that you will be prepared. At the show, your mission is to visit all of the exhibits that you have marked. Fresh talk You should keep your breath fresh throughout the day with breath spray. Try not to chew gum or mints, since they interfere with your speech. If you don't have breath spray, spend just a few minutes with a mint or gum in your mouth to freshen your breath. In addition to having fresh breath to talk to your prospects, it will freshen you up throughout the day. Attire You can never overdress for a trade show. You should wear clothes appropriate for the subject trade show. Business attire would be appropriate for a local trade show commencing in the evening after work. Casual clothes would be appropriate for a trade show at a resort. Regardless of the setting, dress professionally. Differentiate yourself from your competition with your dress. Courtesies Give your undivided attention to the exhibitors. Do not eat or drink during your excursion. If you must drink, do not drink alcohol. You are at work just as much as if you were at the office. Turn off your cellular phone. Time is precious Many times, you realize that an exhibitor has no products or services that interest you. Thank the exhibitor and proceed. Don't waste his and your time. Eat or drink before or after you have accomplished your mission. Don't waste your time talking with friends and employees. You are on a mission. Current vendors Spend some time talking with your current account reps. Learn what new products they may have. Introduce yourself to the other employees of your current vendors. Get to know the decision makers and people in the organization who can get things done. Literature Gather literature. Read the material as soon as possible and follow up. Contact the vendors. Throw out literature that is useless to you. File the literature that you may later want to follow up on. Set appointments Bring your appointment book and set appointments with the vendors you would like to pursue a relationship with. Networking Trade shows are a good place to network. You will primarily be networking with newly found exhibitors and your current vendors. Do not forget to meet with your colleagues. They are good sources of information and knowledge. Education Many trade shows offer educational courses and seminars. You should take advantage of these excellent opportunities. You may even have the "Opper-tunity" to hear me! Post-trade show Hospitality suites are a good way to socialize and learn more about a company. Food and drinks will be available. Try to keep your alcoholic drinking to a minimum so that you will stay in control. The hospitality suite provides a good, controlled environment for networking. Advance reservations You may want to stay overnight at the trade show. Make reservations at your hotel long in advance. To avoid the hassles of finding somewhere to eat in a town that might be overrun with trade shows and other exhibits, you should make advance dinner reservations. If you will need a car, those reservations should also be made far in advance. If you are planning to host a dinner, those reservations should be arranged in advance. These trade show attendee success tips will help you have a very successful trade show experience. Following these tips will help you enjoy every trade show to its fullest. Ill see you at the next trade show. Gary Opper, CPA, CFP is the president of Approved Financial Corporation and is past president of the Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers Miami Chapter. He may be reached at (954) 384-4557 or e-mail [email protected].