The 10 People You Meet At Trade Shows

In my last column, "If Social Networks Were Real People," I introduced you to Facebook Felicia, Twitter Tommy, LinkedIn Larry, Pinterest Penny, Instagram Izzy, Snapchat Sam, and Google+ Gertrude. By creating personas for the top social networks, we unveiled key marketing opportunities with each platform.

Today, let’s continue the persona development theme and wrap it around the types of people you meet at industry conferences. Just making sure you’ll be equipped to survive and thrive at your next show.

Swaggy Steve

Modus Operandi (MO): This dude is just in it for the branded promotional items -- aka the swag, the tchotchkes, the gubbins. He goes booth to booth stocking up on everything from pens to stress balls to selfie sticks. The only thing he doesn’t take is your business card.

How to spot: You’ll recognize Steve as the only guy who kept the free bag they gave out at registration. He also never makes eye contact when he approaches your booth.

How to handle: Let the guy grab his loot and dash. Who knows if he even works in the industry. Just make sure you keep the good swag on lockdown behind the booth for real prospects and clients.

Smallbiz Susie

MO: Susie just started a business and put up her own money to attend this conference. She’s here to learn as much as possible in a couple of days so she can build her ecommerce website and sell tons of scrapbook supplies.

How to spot: Susie will make a direct approach and straight-up ask, “Can you tell me how to get to the top of Google?” or, “What’s the best time of day to post on Facebook?” as if she were asking for directions to the bathroom.

How to handle: Take pity on Susie. She’s putting herself out there. If you’re lucky enough to know how to optimize Google or Facebook, pay it forward and share your knowledge.

Brand Betty

MO:Betty is a brand manager for a big CPG company. She drew the short stick and has to attend the conference and bring back all the notes on the latest digital innovations.

How to spot: She sits near the back of the session rooms and doesn’t wear her name badge.

How to handle: Build solidarity. Make fun of the pundits onstage. Throw a few spitballs at the nerds in the front row. Get her Twitter handle and start following her today, then follow up with a real business inquiry tomorrow.

Rookie Rob

MO: Rob is the eager seller who’s attending his first show and can’t wait to try out the value prop he memorized.

How to spot: He’s giving the elevator pitch everywhere but the kitchen, and is sinking.

How to handle: Give the guy a break. We’ve all been the newbie at some point. Hear him out and then politely explain why you don’t have a need for another mobile DSP.

Backdoor Bob

MO: Bob is also a seller, but a bit more covert in his action. He’ll draw you in by pretending to be interested in what you do — but the whole time, he’s just waiting for you to shut up so he can tell you about what he does.

How to spot: He’s the dude who hides his badge when he walks up so you think he might be a big brand or something.

How to handle: What about Bob? Show no mercy and tell him to bugger off.

Savvy Sara

MO:Sara is the good kind of seller. She’s thoughtful and deliberate in approach, always seeking to add value. She asks inquisitive questions, shares insightful information, and makes it clear how and when she’ll follow up after the show.

How to spot: She’s the person at the booth who’s been talking to that other client for the past 30 minutes without poking her head around to see if anyone else more important is in the area.

How to handle: Wait your turn. It’ll be worth it.

Connected Connie

MO: Connie works for MediaLink. She knows everyone. And you’re lucky if you know her, because it means you have a chance at getting into the VIP section.

How to spot: She’s the one walking around the exhibit hall with a gaggle of people hanging on her every word… sometimes wearing headphones on a guided tour.

How to handle: Choose your spots carefully with Connie, and only call in a favor when needed. Unless you’re a MediaLink client – in which case, milk it!

Booth Barbie

MO: If Connie is the one who knows everything and everyone one, Barbie is the one who knows nothing and nobody. She was just hired for the conference to stand at the booth and wear a T-shirt with the company logo — one that’s two sizes too small.

How to spot: If you can’t tell, that’s on you, bro.

How to handle: Do not engage. If you’re genuinely trying to learn about the company she’s representing, you’ll get nothing useful. And if you’re trying to hit on her, you’ll look like a scumbag.

Kool Moe Dee

MO: Moe Dee just comes to the conference for his speaking gig. He doesn’t attend any of the other sessions or walk the expo hall. He’s literally too cool for school.

How to spot: Easy. Moe Dee has that fancy ribbon on his badge that says “speaker.”

How to handle: Only approach Moe Dee if you saw his talk and have a relevant question to ask. Flattery will get you everywhere, so start by saying how great his presentation was, and then try and make an impression.

Agency Alec

MO:Alec is that rogue agency exec who’s only at the show for two reasons: to steal your clients and steal your staff.

How to spot: Clearly, he’s the smartest guy in the room.

How to handle: Hug your clients and hug your staff. Don’t give them any reason to talk to Alec. And don’t assume all agency honchos are Smart Alecs. Some are genuinely Good Guys and Sweet Janes.

Chief Mark Officer

Sorry, you have a better chance of spotting Bigfoot in the wild than a brand CMO walking around at a conference.

5 comments about "The 10 People You Meet At Trade Shows ".
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  1. Wayne Langley from Varsity , September 30, 2015 at 11:44 a.m.

    Highly accurate!  It is part of the "Experience" of participating in conferences! 

  2. Leon Thomas from Flashy Trends, September 30, 2015 at 12:03 p.m.

    That was good

  3. Terry Wall from First Impressions VIdeo, September 30, 2015 at 3:46 p.m.

    Aaron, I thought "If Social Networks..." was funny and clever, but I LOVED"The 10 People..."!! Having spent nearly a dozen years in digital marketing, I can truthfully say I know all ten of 'em! Hell, I've probably BEEN a few of 'em, too! 

    I'm still laughing!

  4. Aaron Goldman from Mediaocean, September 30, 2015 at 4:54 p.m.

    Thx guys... when trade shows are a part of the job, ya gotta have fun with it! 

  5. Erik Sass from none, October 1, 2015 at 1:14 p.m.

    ha!  "that's on you, bro"  love it

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