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Using Small Business Events to Your Advantage

By Townes Haas   |    November 21, 2014   |    9:26 AM

How to Properly Promote Your Business at Events

Startups and small businesses often don’t have the capital to buy booth space at industry events. Yet, events offer the perfect opportunity to network with potential customers and influencers. Even if businesses can’t establish a presence on the exhibition floor of major events, they can attend small or local events to start building their businesses. 

Types of Events to Attend

Many cities host a local Startup Week. Startup Weeks typically have free seminars, luncheons and networking events at various locations, allowing small companies to mingle and learn from industry experts.

Another option is to find a local accelerator program and attend presentations. Certain programs open up the presentation portion of the event to the public. These provide opportunities to network with investors and other startups.

Networking events are the easiest – and potentially most impactful way – to connect with influencers and potential customers. These usually take the form of luncheons, parties or happy hours. and sites like this often list different networking events. Also, look for industry networking events.

A final option is just to attend different local events in your community. Talk to people who attend, especially companies and sponsors. While not as targeted as the previous options, they still provide opportunities to connect with new people.

How to Use These Events

The main purpose of attending should be to talk to as many people as possible, but go in with goals in mind. For example, how many people do you need to speak with to consider the event a success? Is it 5 people, 10, 20, etc.? The more people that your business connects with, the higher the likelihood you’ll find someone interested in what they’re selling.

Try to find events that typically have people that may be interested in your product or service. Do some research ahead of time. Determine who the sponsors and hosts are, and what their interests, wants and needs are. This will help establish talking points. Read through the guest list, and pick a few people that could help your business or would find your product/service appealing.

Stand out from the crowd. Dress nicely, and wear something unique like a high-quality scarf, hat or piece of jewelry. Have a conversation starter – some tidbit about the sponsor or location for example. When walking into a new group, ask if it’s OK to join the group.

Get in line for freebies or food, and talk to the surrounding people. Give out business cards only to people with whom you’ve had real conversations. Don’t just jump into promoting the business. Actually speak to the person, and then eventually the question will come up about professions and business.

Finally, sign up to be a speaker at some of these events. Smaller events are often hungry for presenters. This gets your business in front of new people and gives the presenter a chance to connect with others.

If a small business can’t set up a booth at an event, that doesn’t mean that they still can’t use it to their advantage. It just takes a bit more creativity and networking skills to promote it.

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