10 Lessons from the Trade Show Floor

Many of us have been talking about working with more direct clients lately. While a substantial number of freelancers really enjoy working with agencies who take care of the business of translation, many others enjoy the higher prices and direct contact associated with end consumers. We fall in the latter category, and decided to explore some new methods for finding new clients.

One of my dear friends here in Vegas, who works in the gaming industry, offered me a free pass to roam the exhibit halls at G2E, the Global Gaming Expo, which is the largest of its kind in the world. Gulp. Not to be intimated by the more than 750 exhibitors, I went to work. Here's what I learned:

  • Do your homework. Don't aimlessly wander around the halls. Research the companies ahead of time. Pick five to 15 (depending on how many days you can be there), look into the companies' product lines, their website, read their press releases, etc. Have something to say when you get to the booth.
  • Go to a trade show for an industry that you are familiar with or have worked in before. If you have previously worked with a client in the field, ask if you can use the client's name when you talk about your services.
  • Dress the part. If you are a girl, try not to get confused with the convention hostesses, which does not take much effort. In my experience, business casual on the creative-dressy side with a cute accent (in the form of a scarf, chunky necklace, etc) works great for females. The Gaming Expo happens to have a large majority of male exhibitors, and they are usually happy to see a girl with a smile heading their way who is not wearing a Coors Light shirt.
  • Be mindful of exhibitors' time. Some convention days are busier than others, and exhibitors have traveled from afar to make sales, so they might not be in mindset to buy services, unless you play your cards right. I found the last day of the expo and the 4 p.m. hour to be a good time. Sure, on the last day people are tired, but they are also not as busy and have some down time. Next time, I am bringing donuts. It works for the pharmaceutical reps.
  • Score a free pass to the exhibitor halls (mine would have cost $125) by volunteering for the event through your local Chamber of Commerce of Convention Bureau. Many times, all you have to do is work a few hours to get access to the convention, or at least the exhibit hall.
  • If your Convention Bureau offers it, sign up for an RSS feed announcing the upcoming conventions.
  • Don't take it personally. I am no good at this either, but it happens: company representatives are busy and overworked at these events. They don't get to sleep much, they are jet-lagged and sometimes grouchy. Most people will be very friendly, but don't get discouraged if they are not.
  • Don't do a hard sales pitch. For me, this works well, as I am not a natural salesperson. At the Gaming Expo, I realized several companies from Austria were there. Here in Vegas, I don't get to speak much German, so I was all about speaking "Austrian" with whomever I could. I really wasn't trying to sell these folks anything; I just wanted to say hello. Next thing I know, I get an e-mail from one of the Austrian companies they are gladly passing on my info to the rest of their company and that they would like to work with me.
  • Find a buddy. If you are like most people, walking up to strangers trying to sell them something is a daunting task. Bring a friend, whether he or she is a translator or not. Even better, bring a friend who is in the industry, is attending the conference, and can introduce you to some folks. I was lucky enough to have two highly respected people in the industry who did just that for me.
  • Follow up. As soon as you can, jot down notes on the back of people's business cards to help you remember them and what you talked about (Did you talk about the new industry publication? Do you share an alma mater?). All this information will also help remind your counterpart who you are once you follow up. It's a good idea to do this within a week.
Good luck, everyone! We'd love to hear about your experiences and the lessons you learned, which we will include in future posts.


Anonymous said...

This is brilliant advice that every translator should give some thought to. Of course, Las Vegas gets more than its share of conventions and trade shows, which is a perk for you, but most people live within driving distance of something along these lines a few times a year. (Plus, it's deductible!)


Sam Gibson on May 4, 2015 at 6:08 PM said...

Judy & Dagmar, I love your tip about scoring free passes. My wife goes to a lot of trade shows & always seems to find a free way in. I would also think having good security at these trade shows could also help reduce some stress. Lots of times, there's really expensive stuff out on display. A good security detail can make sure it's all still there in the morning. http://security-unlimited.com/convention-services/

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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