In recent years, event organizers such as Marcus Evans, Richmond Events, HR.com and some others have enjoyed success with a format that guarantees vendors 30 minute one-on-one meetings with HR executives over a two day period. For human resource suppliers to participate in these events, prices typically start at $10-$15 thousand dollars and can go up from there. Back in the late 1990's I had the pleasure of attending one of these events aboard the historic QE2 cruise ship. Given the growing popularity of these events, we thought it appropriate to Blog about them. Here is our advice to HR suppliers who are considering these types of events:
1. Is It The Right Event For Your Company?
Depends. We've spoken to HR suppliers representing the entire spectrum of HR services, from recruiting and staffing to EAP's, and you can find a success story in each category. But in general, your success depends mainly on who the primary buyer is for your services. These event organizers typically recruit senior HR executives. If a senior HR executive is not personally involved in the buying process for what you are selling, then you will have a difficult time succeeding at these events. And contrary to what a lot of HR suppliers may think, many HR products and services do not involve a senior HR executive in the buying process.
2. Who From Your Company Should Attend?
Introverts need not apply. The person(s) you want representing your firm at these events is someone who is senior, can sell, and is accustomed to entertaining executives. This may not be a field sales rep or even your CEO. You know the right person - send them.
3. Conducting the Meetings
They go fast. By the second day, the HR executives are very tired as they are attending a lot of meetings. Asking them "what they hope to accomplish with this meeting" or a similar open ended question works well to kickoff the meetings. Find out what their pain points are and how you may help solve it/them. Avoid "presentations" like Laptop PowerPoints, printed "decks", etc. The more they talk, the better. However, try and minimize the small talk. For example, in response to a simple question "how did you do at the tables last night", one executive we met with spoke for 10 mins on gambling techniques (the QE2 had gambling as entertainment in evening). Only give out handouts at the end of the presentation. You generally will not sell anything during these sessions so don't do the hard sell. Believe me, they will thank you for not doing so. The time for sales is in follow-up (see below). Ask them how they want you to follow-up and if there is someone else at the company you should talk to. Before the meeting, have a mental checklist of points you want to discuss. Also, learn something about each company so you can talk intelligently about their firm. You may also want to Google the executive to see if you can learn something about them.
4.. Marketing Collateral
Again, less is more. They have to carry all this stuff home and they are meeting with dozens of other vendors. Give the executives a choice to walk away with a brochure or receive it via Express mail at their office.
Caution: You are paying for this executive's trip on a wonderful cruise ship and/or resort. Consequently, they will be very NICE to you. If you forecasted a sale on how nice they and receptive they were during your meeting, you would have a high close probability on all meetings. Follow-up is crucial but keep in mind, several dozen other vendors are also following-up. Getting the executive's attention is going to be tough and sometimes, the actual "buyer" was not on the ship so your brochure was delegated to someone else. For those prospects where you felt you have the best chance for business, you may want to do the old trick "Hey, I'll be in your area next month. Let's get together for lunch........".
6. Sleeping and Drinking
When I went on the QE2, I was amazed at the number of vendors who stayed up half the night partying and/or drinking too much. This is why you may want to send someone with a stake in your company's long term success. Trust me, drink seltzer water and get to bed at a decent hour. The more rested and refreshed you are, the better you will do.
7. Committing to Next Year
Don't be surprised if the event organizer will want you to sign-up for next years event soon after this years event is done. Our advice is don't rush. Wait six months, especially if this is your first event. In six months you will have a much better idea of how the event did for you. Don't worry, there will be plenty of space.