Although I have written about the benefits of attending a trade show numerous times, I have found that many inventors are still apprehensive about the idea. “Why would I attend a trade show if I’m not selling a product?” they ask. But you ARE selling a product. I asked Eva Winger, a veritable trade show pro, to help explain the benefits of attending a trade show and how you can get the most out of doing so. She recently went to a hardware trade show in Las Vegas.
“It’s true, I did not have a physical product to sell in the traditional sense. But I did have a different kind of product inventors tend to overlook, and that was myself–the inventor– a real breathing person,” she explained.
Winger believes, as do I, that the best and most long-lasting professional relationships are formed beyond electronic communication. Meeting people in person can make a huge difference. So Winger makes an effort to personally meet representatives from potential licensees. As she states, trade shows are a “great, easy, and convenient way to make initial contacts.”
So how did she ‘work’ the show?
“The first day I walked the whole venue (yes in those heels!), and got the lay of the land. I familiarized myself as to which booths I wanted to approach later. Even though trade shows are huge, I encourage those who are attending for the first time to acclimate themselves to the environment. Yes, it is daunting and overwhelming at first, but as the inventor keeps walking he/she will start to see a pattern to the booths and understand the selling formats.”
Winger also enjoys perusing the “New Invention” area, where she introduces herself to other inventors and hears their stories. She always exchanges business cards with these new inventors, because as she puts it, “I never know when one of these people might have the next big product. A simple introduction can be the entree into a future connection.” And after hearing presentation after presentation, she better understands what makes one good or bad.
On the second day of the trade show, she returns to the booths that originally interested her.
“Typically, when I approach these booths, I am not there to sell a product, but to talk to the sales rep about his/her company and ask if their company looks to outside innovation for new products. At the Hardware show, almost all the company’s I approached said they were willing to look at inventors’ ideas and would sign NDAs. Because the sales reps typically don’t review products, they readily gave me the name and numbers of those individuals in their companies who do make those decisions.”
Winger then follows up with these connections about a week after the show. She has her foot in the door – and has a contact e-mail that an average inventor wouldn’t upon approaching a potential licensee.
Stephen Key is a successful award-winning inventor who has licensed
over 20 products in the past 25 years. Along with business partner
Andrew Krauss, Stephen runs inventRight, a company dedicated to educating inventors about selling their ideas and the skills needed to succeed. You can ask questions and get advice on the inventRight forum, check out the resource center, and listen to the weekly radio show on inventing. Get In The News, list your invention to have media outlets find you for news stories.