It’s ShowtimePosted: September 4, 2015
September 4, 2015
One of the most effective uses of your competitive intelligence skills, whether basic or advanced, is to “work” a tradeshow or conference. I’m not to get into the details of doing that here, but will discuss it in some future posts. What I want to do now is to give you a couple of hints about how to prepare for such an event.
The first thing you have to establish is to answer the question: why are you going to this tradeshow? If you’re going there solely to represent your company, and expect to be anchored to its table or booth or stand, then you have limited opportunities to develop CI. However, you should be prepared to listen carefully to what customers and potential customers of yours may say to you in their visit to your booth. In fact, if you can really engage them in conversations, try – very gently – to elicit from them what they may have heard from a competitor at the show.
Another option is to dedicate some or all of your time to visiting competitor booths, attending open sessions of the tradeshow at which competitors may be speakers or panel participants, and talking to people who leave competitor exhibits.
Your preparation for this should include a commitment from your company you will be doing this as your primary (preferably sole) mission. It is not an effective way to operate to get a commitment that “if we can spare you” you can then do some CI work. Realistically, at a trade show there is very little spare time.
What you should prepare for is a day (or days) of listening, note taking (your smart phone probably can get an app for this), and a lot of movement. One definite “to do” is to dress not to stand out. By this, I mean if you are wearing a shirt or hat or button at your booth identifying you with your company or product, lose it if you are working the floor, collecting competitive information. Alerting a competitor that your firm is now listening to one of sales person’s conversation or studying a new product makes it almost impossible to collect useful data. If that means you have to bring in extra shirt and change when you leave the booth, so be it.
Notice, I did not say pretend to be someone else, use false trade show id, etc. Legal and ethical is still the rule, as with all other efforts to collect data for CI.
Regardless of what you are doing, regularly collect and preserve your impressions and information, as you are going along if possible. If that is not possible, take time before you return to the office to record, either by dictation or in writing, all of your impressions and data collected, including an evaluation of any and all materials that you have collected while at the meeting. By the time you get back to your office, not only will there be other, pressing, demands on your time, you will begin to forget individual details that might have been critical had you remembered them.
 Throughout, I will “use tradeshow” also to refer to conferences that are attended by your competitors or other companies of interest.