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The 7 Secrets of Trade Show Ninjas

You won’t wear black and you won’t throw any stars, but you will close deals

Mar 3, 2014

Illustration Kyle Metcalf

1. The trade show starts before the trade show
Six weeks before the trade show, while others are eating too much or living lives of sloth, the trade show ninja is already at work. He is reaching out to past contacts, making appointments, creating simple databases and spreadsheets and putting tools to work for them, like social media. And all of this requires research, research, research. You know that adage about learning about your potential interviewer before a job interview? The trade show ninja applies the lesson to know potential contacts in a different way than his fellow trade show attendees.

2. Find other ninjas and share your contacts
Should you hoard your contacts to yourself? Or should you share contacts with another person or people working the floor for contacts? The latter approach can gain you more contacts. It’s the better idea. The trade show ninja is not averse to using others to do her work for her. Other trade show ninjas will understand. After sharing leads, you and your fellow trade show ninjas will have extra time to work the room, or sharpen your shuriken blades.

3. Make it easy
You know that guy who just loves being sent off to a trade show in some nondescript part of some city he’s never wanted to visit? In January? In a blizzard? The trade show ninja knows he doesn’t exist, and thus doesn’t waste time with singing and dancing when quick, straight talk will do. That guy really just wants to close a deal, grab lunch, then head back to his hotel room to call his wife. The trade show ninja gets that. The trade show ninja doesn’t judge.

4. Work the room
The trade show ninja laughs at the stupidity of her opponents. While the others set up their booths and then let people walk past without engaging them, the trade show ninja puts people in the aisle to greet passersby and direct them to her booth. At the booth, the trade show ninja makes sure someone is there to engage anyone and everyone with any interest.

5. Show no mercy
The trade show ninja is the nicest person in the room but ruthless once a deal has been roughly agreed upon. Research shows people need to be reminded of something up to six times before they act. The trade show ninja does not abandon his potential wins. He applies pressure, subtly or not, to get that signature on paper.

6. Speak up
If you’re not presenting, speaking on a panel or keynoting a live-tweet discussion at the trade show, don’t be like the trade show sloth and pout in the corner. The trade show ninja laughs at pain and adversity, and creates his own discussion. The power of social media and other online tools is that it’s relatively easy to reach out to potential contacts and engage them using their smartphones.

7. Connect with the big fish
Exclusivity is a beguiling thing. The easiest way to make something special is to make it only available to certain people. It’s an instant club. The trade show ninja knows this lesson and applies it to potential leads by scheduling them quick meetings with her company’s CEO, CFO or other big swimmers.

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