How to Connect With Government Customers at Conferences

As we’ve discussed before, conferences and trade shows can be great places to find customers. You may choose a conference based on geographical proximity, or you may look for ones devoted to particular topics appropriate to your skill set. For example, TAPE recently attended the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), which caters to people who put together training simulation products.

Training simulations make it possible to learn how to operate a weapon without having to shoot off actual ordinates, doing which could cost $50,000-$100,000. The technology behind these simulators has become much more sophisticated, creating the sensation that you are actually moving through the terrain.

Our company TAPE is in this functional arena, and so we put on an exhibit at the I/ITSEC conference. That meant we were there for five days in total – the four-day conference plus a day to set up. How did we make sure that five days was successful?

In this era fewer government people attend these conferences. Many agencies cannot afford a booth unless the conference is on-site at their location. That means it’s more important than ever to do the prep work of knowing the local agencies and who you’ll be most likely see from there.

We had a complete list of the people in the government sector agencies we wanted to talk to, as well as other companies we want to do business with. So when our people were standing on the floor and Colonel Smith, for example, walked up, they’d recognize him as a key contact, have the background information to make a meaningful connection, and have a clear plan for what to say.

Our marketing materials were targeted to the agencies and functions that would show up, and we brought the right folks from our team – not just marketing, but the technical people who could talk about the topics that were front and center on everyone’s minds. We also volunteered to give presentations and papers about those topics.

If you’re going to attend or exhibit at a conference, plan ahead so that you can fully immerse yourself in the topic and community that will be there. Be sure to present your company and materials in a way that’s relevant to the event and audience. If you position your presence this way, it can be another important touch point in the relationship you are building with your customers and prospective customers.