Small-business owners are aware that who and what you know can equal success. At the Small Business Expo in New York on June 9, 10,000 registrants will have the opportunity to attend seminars by industry experts and network with peers. The free, one-day business-to-business expo’s mission is to help SMBs achieve success.
“To be successful, it’s critical that small-business owners have venues, such as this expo, where they can learn and exchange ideas," says Jackie Dryden, chief purpose architect at Savage Brands. "Peer-to-peer interaction is incredibly valuable. It can build skills, connections and confidence."
There are 14 Small Business Expos held throughout the country in major cities; Minneapolis and Seattle are the next stops. Savage attended the Expo in Houston. “I found the networking to be incredibly valuable,” she says. “I made connections that have proved mutually beneficial for years after the event.”
For the networking alone, the Small Business Expo is a “must,” says Alaina Levine, president of Quantum Success Solutions and author of Networking for Nerds. “The Expo provides a unique and unmatched chance for entrepreneurs to unlock new opportunities for business. Not only do you gain insight and advice about practical and critical issues that can propel your business forward, you also interact and network with leaders and potential collaborators who have access to game-changing business and career opportunities.”
Insights From Industry Experts
When you’re trying to grow your business, there can be a great deal of value in learning from successful business owners, instead of trying to reinvent the proverbial wheel, believes Patrick Stroh, president of Mercury Business Advisors. “With a forum like the Expo, you can quickly get a pulse on the market and obtain a plethora of ideas for your own business. While you’re focused on growth and innovation, which is a common theme at the workshops being held at the Expo, [you can also] leverage and learn from what others are doing in their businesses.”
—Alaina Levine, president, Quantum Success Solutions
According to Levine, this year’s Expo agenda is diversified, providing information and guidance about many aspects of growing a small business. “Whether you want to improve your web traffic, hone your public speaking—and pitching—skills, or learn how to franchise your company, the Expo has something for small-business leaders who are in any phase of their career and business development,” she says. “I especially appreciate that there will be sessions on regulatory, legal and fundraising issues. These are often topics that don't get discussed as much as they should in entrepreneurial forums.”
Ways to Tackle This Year's Small Business Expo
In order to get the most out of the Small Business Expo, you may be able to optimize your time there by trying the following:
- Take advantage of networking events. “Remember that networking is not about ‘getting’ something from someone or mining someone's brain for a job, a lead or a sale,” says Levine. “Networking is about crafting win-win partnerships that provide value to both parties in myriad ways over time.”
- Be an early (and friendly) bird. “Arrive early to talks and sit down near someone you don’t know,” advises Levine. “This is a great opportunity to network, especially for introverts, because there is a reason to speak with the other person. After you sit, introduce yourself, then reference the speaker and his or her subject as a way to get the conversation started. When the speaker begins, whisper, ‘It was great to meet you. May I have your business card?’ ”
- Leverage the exhibit hall. Rather than wandering around aimlessly, consider using the exhibit hall experience as a time to learn and make connections. Ahead of time, examine the list of exhibitors and prioritize the ones you want to visit.
- Don’t eat alone. Instead of spending your lunch hour reading email, you may want to “take advantage of the networking gold all around you,” suggests Levine. “If you see someone eating alone, ask if you can join the person. Chances are you’ll be invited to sit, and the fact that you’re both attending the Expo gives you something to talk about.”
- Use social media before, during and even after the conference. “Many last-minute changes to conferences programs (as well as supplementary events and activities) are promoted only via the conference app or on social media, in particular Twitter,” says Levine. “You’ll get useful insight that may not be shared anywhere else and will discover who the trendsetters and leaders in the community are. Retweet these individuals’ tweets to help establish and amplify your brand, and use social media to contact your newfound colleagues after the conference.”
For more insights on getting the most out of networking opportunities, access the exclusive guide, Networking That Works: Connect Your Way to Business Growth.
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