Face time for a virtual industry

Scott Rabinowitz
Happy Autumn. A great time of year visually in many parts of the world, including my fair Southern Colorado front range. I can remember a time in the late 90’s when the industry used to salivate at the thought of the fall season arriving for exciting business reasons. At the time, the second biggest rush of new PC’s hitting the market (and therefore multitudes of new internet users) annually was the back to school season. Lots of college age folks unpacking new machines bundled with AOL, CompuServe, AT&T Worldnet and other lightning fast dial up ISP’s. Lots of curious new users typing in domains for the first time and gaining access to the world of the safest sex possible, online from home.

Maybe a strange segue, but I like to reminisce about these times as I get ready for a busy season of trade shows. I do like to plan ahead to make best use of face time, one of the most valuable resources to help your business. I just returned from the Island Gathering in Curacao and the 1st ever Gay Phoenix Forum. Both events seemed like a tremendous success on the whole. Personally, I found the days spent at these events to be fantastic.

The value of face time when doing business on behalf of web sites and internet companies cannot be ignored. If you know the products & services you represent or own well and you can take the time to learn how best to fit what you have within the needs of potential clients and partners, trade shows in our industry can be your best friend.

Putting aside the issue of sponsorship, having booth space, etc., focus on the value of going to shows yourself or sending staff to ‘work the floor’. While I can excitedly remember my first show in January of ’99, I also remember feeling overwhelmed not knowing who to start talking to and how to understand each person or company’s element of involvement in the industry food chain. While the show was still productive, I have made it a point since to come prepared, researching people, companies, industry trends, etc. to have something new to discuss with people as often as possible. All these years later, it still takes some planning and prep to accomplish the goals set for a specific trade show.

While many people in the industry believe in the value of the show, many also perceive that you cannot get any substantive business done. I disagree and in fact have generated some of the best deals I have ever worked on specifically at the shows. As we get into the season for the bigger shows again, I recommend highly that you sit with your team or in front of a pad of paper and a pen to determine what goals can be set for your time away from the office. There is absolutely no doubt that virtually any business in this industry can yield great benefits from face time with industry peers, but there is no such thing as something for nothing. Expect to invest some time to be best prepared for the output of your time spent at these industry events.