This year, Chicago’s FIA Expo is in mid-October rather than early November, which means it may have snuck up on you with its earlier-than-usual start. In preparation for next week, we’ve compiled a checklist that attendees can use to make sure they are ready for the futures industry’s biggest event of the year.
3Points has attended FIA Expo every year since we were founded in 2010. We have guided a wide variety of clients through the conference, from panelists to exhibitors to attendees simply there to network. By planning ahead and thinking through the following strategies, we are able to give our clients the best odds for a successful Expo:
- Don’t go empty handed: Have an announcement or talking points relevant to your business
Roughly 5,000 people attend FIA Expo — so, with so much competition for attention, how will you stand out and leave an impression on others in the industry? In any story, having a “hook” is important. Product launches and big announcements are great, but those can’t always be timed perfectly for conferences, so you may have to spend some time crafting a narrative.
Meet with your sales team and pinpoint the most compelling aspects of your company’s story. Really take the time to think about what messages will stand out in a sea of keynotes, panels and exhibitors. And, crucially, ensure that all of your fellow team members attending Expo are on the same page regarding talking points — the more consistency in your message, the more likely it will be to stick.
(Also important: keeping the message simple. You won’t be surprised to learn that 3Points recommends using no more than three main talking points.)
2. Have a script: Plan your pitches to media and potential sales leads at the event
While many Expo attendees are from Chicago, the event also draws media and industry members from across the country and even the globe. As such, you should plan your meetings wisely, and try to ensure face time with those you don’t normally get an opportunity to speak to in person. In many cases, this will be the only time in the year that you both are in the same city — take advantage of that.
On a similar note, you have to be smart with both your time and others’ as well. Schedule your meetings for a half hour or less — people are busy, and 20–30 minutes is more than enough time for a good conversation. It’s not likely that you will pitch, negotiate and close a deal in this short window of time. Concentrate on getting your message across and having specific, concrete action items that you can work on after the show.
3. Reach beyond the conference and scale your message: Create a social media schedule
Social media is no longer a novelty at industry conferences. Just as people are physically gathering in Chicago for the event, they will be digitally gathering around the hashtag #FIAExpo for the Twitter conversation. This makes big conferences like Expo the ideal place to expand your audience through live-tweeting.
Live-tweeting sounds simple, but you shouldn’t just show up, whip out your phone and tweet away. Take a look at the schedule of panels and keynotes a week or so in advance, and mark down the ones you think will be most interesting and relevant to your company and your followers. Do your homework on the job titles of the speakers and their Twitter handles (and/or their companies’ handles as well.) And, when the time comes, try to get to the stage a little early so you’re in position to capture a compelling image to accompany your tweets.
4. Make your investment pay off: If you’re participating in FIA Expo, be prepared
This one may seem obvious, but the stakes are much higher when you go from merely attending the Expo to participating in it.
If you’re an exhibitor, it’s important to consider the basics of how your booth looks, what swag you’re giving out and having staff scheduled to cover all of the exhibit hall hours, but there’s more to it than that. Rather than just showing up and standing in your booth, take some time to identify the prospects that you would like to see. From there, make sure that your team knows who the high-quality targets are, and be on the lookout for them. Know what you want to say to them, and get up out of your chair and track them down in the aisle if you need to. Don’t be passive: make the time and expense work for you.
If you’re speaking on a panel, actually write out your talking points beforehand. Even if you won’t be referring to your notes during the panel, the process of writing them out and seeing them on paper will make them easier to recall. If you will have the chance to give some opening remarks, practice them out loud, either in front of a mirror or a key member of your team. Better yet, hold a practice panel with a colleague or two, or your PR team, so you can practice giving answers aloud. Take more than one stab at it and the payoff will be noticeable.
5. Showcase your personal brand: Capitalize on the opportunity to sell yourself and your company
FIA Expo is a fantastic opportunity to build your personal brand and get your business in front of people. That doesn’t mean to oversell yourself — remember, there are at least 5,000 other reasons people are attending Expo — but be ready to take advantage of opportunities when they arise.
For example, make sure you are fully-stocked with business cards each day. Business cards might seem out-of-date in the age of email and social media, but we can tell you from experience they have led to many new client and partner relationships for 3Points in the past few years. And forging new relationships should be a key priority for anyone at FIA Expo.