14 Tips to Prepare for Matchmaking Events

25-Mar-2016

Preparing for Matchmaking Events and other Government Expos

By Chuck Schadl, Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center

PTAC sponsored conferences and matchmaking events as well as federal, state and local government trade shows/expos offer opportunities for small business vendors to connect with government agency and prime contractor buyers.

How can small businesses gain a competitive advantage by attending such events? The answer lies as much in preparation and follow-up as it does in actual attendance.

These kinds of events are what you make them. If you go to just listen, you may come away disappointed. If, on the other hand, you go to make something happen, you can come away with some good contacts, valuable insights, and solid business leads.

Here are a few tips …

  • 1. Establish some objectives for yourself – what do you hope to accomplish by attending? State this in concrete, quantifiable terms.
  • 2. Think about the specific kinds of opportunities you want to go after and be prepared to explain how you represent the solution to the government’s contracting objectives.
  • 3. Identify who is going to be in attendance and research in advance as much as you can about who will be there and those persons you want to meet. Think about why they are going to the show and what they want to accomplish there – align yourself with their objectives.
  • 4. Familiarize yourself with all details of the show so that you can envision how you are going to use the structure of the show to accomplish your objectives.
  • 5. Be prepared with marketing materials, including business cards, brochures and/or product/service fact sheets, product samples/portfolio, and a detailed capabilities statement. Tailor at least one of your handouts to the expo or show itself.
  • 6. Be prepared to talk about pricing. You may not need to, but be prepared just in case someone asks.
  • 7. Begin to envision how your competitors at the show can be potential partners as a result of the show.
  • 8. Develop and be prepared to deliver a 30-second “elevator speech” which explains in layman’s terms exactly what you are an expert at doing. Don’t be shy to explain what’s special about your company and why your products/services are the best.
  • 9. Remember that buyers don’t have time to waste. Buyers want specific information, and buyers want to know what’s special about you (that’s your competitive advantage).
  • 10. Preparation is essential. It’s better not to go at all than to go unprepared – you never have a second chance to make a good first impression.
  • 11. Dress to impress. And wear comfortable shoes!
  • 12. At the show, listen to how your competitors are selling themselves and learn as much about their marketing as possible. Also learn from their mistakes.
  • 13. Understand that follow-up after the show is critical. Gather all the business cards you collected, write follow-up notes or emails – promptly. Set-up follow-up meetings/conference calls, if possible and appropriate. Send more marketing materials.
  • 14. Write yourself a report on lessons-learned. Review this report before planning to participate in another event.