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Lessons from Our First Trade Show

It took weeks of preparation, but being exhibitors at the URJ Biennial in Chicago turned out to be a dream. We couldn’t have asked for more—connecting with tons of warm, fascinating people and hearing their stories.

There’s plenty of obvious advice out there about marketing your product or service (“Wear comfortable shoes!” “Stay off your phone!”), but here’s an idiosyncratic take from trade show newbies:

  • Be a mensch: Make friends with vendors in the neighboring booths—my colleagues across the way brought me coffee in the morning, and I reciprocated with cheese and crackers in the afternoon. Share your hand sanitizer, tissues, and power bank. Be kind to security and maintenance folks; they’ve been on their feet all day too.

  • Don’t overwhelm: Sometimes people just want to browse. Women in particular can be turned off by the hard sell. It’s ok to just smile, say hi, and wait for questions, instead of immediately launching into your pitch. It's a good practice to give people a little space in which to start a conversation on their terms. After all, we're in the business of listening! Do what makes sense for you.

  • Know when to quit: The temptation is to squeeze in every possible minute to get the most from your investment. But when traffic thinned out in the evenings, leaving a bit early turned out to be a good strategy. It allowed for some much-needed rest. And folks could still grab our promotional materials (and some candy!) and return for a chat the next day.

The best thing about exhibiting was hearing the enthusiastic response to our business model. People want to leave a legacy of what is important to them, and there’s a hunger for recording life stories and organizational histories in a meaningful way.

You know the old saying, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life”? To be honest, our first trade show was plenty of work. But we’re already planning to do it again! That’s love for sure.


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