Trade Show Survival Hints!

Colin Rowntree

And, once again, we all head to XBizLA and whatever other shows that we need to attend in the New Year! 

We all love going to see our B2B partners and affiliates.  To meet new-comers and revive old relationships.  The shows are truly one of the things that drive our industry and create this odd set of bedfellows we call "The Adult Industry".

The goal of this post is to offer any new-comers (and maybe a reminder to old-timers) some helpful hints to make your show experience as enjoyable and profitable as possible.  Based on 15 years of my observations speaking and moderating at adult and tech shows, here are a few chestnuts of common collective wisdom to consider:

- Plan Ahead.
If you have not done so already, set up a few meetings with key strategic partners for the show.  And, as you go through the XBizLA show and meet new people, try to set up meetings with them for the other shows that are coming during the rest of the first quarter of 2012.  Focused "Face Time" is the Holy Grail for these shows, and you taking the initiative to set up lunches, dinners and even coffee breaks show you as an organized and dedicated professsional.

- Bring Your Bling
As strange as it might sound, over the past 15 years I have seen countless people show up at shows with either no business cards, or not enough to last for the duration of the show.  Do yourself a favor and bring along a box of 500 biz cards.  You won't use them all in one show, but the next show is right around the corner.  And, a few "business card" tips":
1) When someone hands you a business card, be sure to write a few notes on the back of it at the end of the conversation about the essence of the conversation and any follow up needed. If you neglect that, you probably won't remember the conversation a week later;
2) When you have your own business cards printed, go for it with fancy glossy design on the front of it.  Holographs! 3D! Go for it.  BUT - make sure the back of the card is plain white stock that other people can write on.  I can't even begin to count the number of glossy black biz cards on both sides I have been handed at shows that look like American Express Centurian Cards, but, having no way to make a note on the back of it, have no idea at all who this person was, so it went into the trash bin.

- Eat, Drink and be Hydrated
The old axiom for trade shows, Burning Man and camping trips is "Eat more than you think you need, and drink more water than you think you can drink".  Trade show environments tend to be devoid of humidity.  Add to that, drinking way too much booze and you have a recipe for  dehydration, headaches, and not being on top of your game. Specific Hint for XBizLA: There is a Walgreens/CVS right across the street from the Sofitel.  Do what I do and make that your first stop to load in a case of bottled water, a gallon of orange juice and any carbs you desire to take into your room (avoiding Sofitel $7 per bottle water!). They also have large bottles of booze at discount prices.......

- Casual Sex
My observation is that no one at a trade show has had casual B2B sex since around 2001.
Don't bother even trying. You'll get the rumor mills going about you being a sleaze bag.
If ya need it that bad, the Yellow Pages are right in the top dresser drawer beside your hotel bed.  Turn to "E" -- look for "Escorts".  Save yourself the humiliation. Women In Adult are not what you want to try to pick up. They are more professional and intelligent than most of the men in this industry and will burn you down in a heartbeat.

- Early To Bed, Early To Rise
Let's face it. No wonderful business deal hatched at 2am at a party after 19 drinks and an ounce of coke ever gets remembered the next day.  Some of my best deals EVER have been made over breakfast at 9am while things are still quiet at the shows and everyone present has a clear head.  Sure, the parties are great, but I suspect the reason we go to the shows is to create new business.  As a rule of thumb, if you have not gotten it done by 9pm, you are just partying like a Frat Boy/Girl, so don't expect much ROI for those late-night conversations.

- Seminars are Important
One of the key elements in all trade shows are the seminars where industry leaders give some information and hints to the current trends to pay attention to.  Go to as many as you can.  There generally isn't much going on during the day anyway and, assuming you were not out until dawn sucking down shots at a titty bar with a gonzo producer named Floyd from Miami that has the "Best MILF HUGE TITTY Gal EVER", get your butt out of bed, have breakfast with a new B2B possible collaborator, and then have seat in the seminar rooms with a cup of coffee and a bottle of water.

- On The Way Home
I have the travel issue of living in New Hampshire, so any show I go to generally involves 5-10 hours on a plane after the show.  What I always do is pull out all those business cards and notes and do a "Triage" on the plane for what I need to follow up on when I get back to the office.

- Follow Up
Traditionally, the most pitiful aspect of the Adult Industry is the lack of follow-up on conversations that took place at trade shows.  This works to your benefit.  After giving things 4-5 days to settle down after the show, start that follow up and don't give up on any leads until they seem to be going nowhere.  Again, you will "rise above the pack" by doing this and demonstrate being professional and dedicated.

That should do it for the basic strategy.  Oh, and when you see Helmy, Moe, Kristen or any other future show organizer, take a minute and say "thanks" to them.  You can't even imagine the work and such they put into these things for all of us and they really appreciate a pat on the back.

See you at XBizLA!