With your pre-prepared questions, approach the booths that you are interested in. If you don’t have anything prepared, here are some suggestions of what to ask an exhibitor:
- Tell me about your business. What does your company do and how does it make a difference in the water industry?
- If you are visiting a manufacturer’s booth, these are questions you could ask about the manufacturer’s product:
- Could you show me a sample of your product and explain to me how it works?
- What are the options on your equipment: for instance, materials of construction, expandability, etc.?
- What makes your product unique, compared with other manufacturers’ products?
- What manufacturers that I may have specified before are comparable?
- Do you offer service plans with the equipment? Where are the service employees located?
- What is the equipment lead time?
- Where is the product manufactured?
- What quality control procedures do you have?
- Do you project that changes will be made to your product in the near future?
- Is the product approved for use by the permitting agency in the state of ____?
- If the booth you are visiting is service related, you could ask about these points:
- What type of services do you provide?
- Who are your major clients?
- What recent projects have you worked on?
- Do you have a list of references you can send me?
- What are your responsibilities with the company? If I have further questions, would I contact you?
- What is the biggest challenge your company faces?
- Offer the exhibitor a real issue or situation you’re dealing with and compare the different approaches, whether regarding valves, pumps, asset management, SCADA, etc. You will be surprised by the breadth of knowledge provided by industry leaders and the variety of solutions to any given situation.
Be sure to ask for information that you are interested in (brochures, case studies, white papers). Bring a notebook
and record the information that’s most valuable to you. Plan to bring that information back to your employer to show the value in sending you to this AWWA conference.
Keep your eye open for networking opportunities while visiting the booths and when moving between booths. Industry leaders are present everywhere around, and they will be delighted to have you, a young professional, introduce yourself to them. Now is the time to hand out all of those business cards you brought along. If walking up to someone and introducing yourself makes you want to shrivel up into a ball, that is okay; there are plenty of people in the same boat.
Talking to new people is hard for most everyone. Remember, these people were once young employees or new to the industry and were in the same position you are now. Learn to play up your strengths. If you are more introverted, you are most likely a good listener. Use that skill and ask your new connections riveting questions that will give them the opportunity to talk. Most important, don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. It will be worth it when you are expanding your professional network!
When you collect a business card, put a personal note on the card to remind yourself of any follow-up. Maybe the person you spoke with:
Wants to be listed in your company’s standard specs
Would like to schedule an office visit to further discuss his/her new technology
Has led a successful YP Social, fund raiser, or competition and will share information so you can do the same in your section.