Dear legal technology vendors,
It’s time for another chat. You may recall that right around this time last year I urged you to reconsider your PR efforts leading up to ILTA (aka ILTACON) — or any major legal technology conference, for that matter. This year, I’ve got a different message and it’s about trade show booth manners.
That’s right: manners. You know, that societal custom whereby you are polite and friendly towards others simply because that’s how you’re supposed to behave. And this is all the more true when you’re representing your company. After all, at a conference your booth is the face of your brand.
So, one would think that if nothing else, the people manning legal technology booths would, at the very least, be friendly. But I’ve often found that’s simply not the case. More often than not those manning legal technology booths chat with one another, fuss with their smartphones, or selectively interact with passersby. And more often than not, I’m not one of those people whom they approach. I always figured it was because I don’t look approachable. I’m usually walking briskly to a set location to meet someone and don’t show much interest in the booths or their wares.
But this year at ILTA, I decided to put my theory to the test. Was it me or would things change significantly if I adjusted my attitude?
So I decided to conduct an experiment. I leisurely strolled up and down each row of the Exhibit Hall and made it a point to try to catch the eye of at least one person in each booth and smile. My goal was to see how many people would greet me verbally. That was pretty much the bar. They had to say “hi” or “hello” or “good morning” or “how are you”? That’s it.
I actually walked the Exhibit Hall twice, just to give everyone a fair shot. I was dressed casually in a sundress and cardigan and wasn’t wearing typical business casual fare. I had my press pass badge but at ILTA there isn’t a ribbon or any other way to clearly identify Press from afar so the fact that I was a member of the media wasn’t readily apparent as I strolled up and down the aisles.
There were nearly 200 exhibitors. Only 14 made the cut.* More on that in a moment.
But first, let me address a few points raised by my ILTA colleagues to whom I mentioned my Exhibit Hall test. One person suggested that it’s not the ILTA way to hard sell. Instead it’s a collegiate community and for that reason many vendors may instruct their employees not to be pushy. Another person suggested that the primary goal of having a booth is to get leads and if a person doesn’t look like s/he is a target customer then there’s no point in reaching out
Both of these are valid points. But even so, I consider vendor booths at conferences to be more than simply lead generators. At the end of the day, your booth is an outward representation of your product, your brand, and your company’s culture. Your job while on booth duty is to be knowledgeable, approachable, and friendly. That doesn’t mean you have to constantly sell your product and harass passersby. But you should be polite, acknowledge everyone regardless of whether they appear to be a target customer, and engage them even it is just to say hello. Being friendly won’t hurt your company and can only help enhance its reputation. And by doing so you open the door to additional interactions—and you never know where it could lead.
It could result in a lead for your company. It could result in a referral for your company. It could make someone’s day a bit brighter. Or, your company could end up listed in an article as 1 of only 14—out of nearly 200 vendors—who acknowledged the presence of a member of the media who may not have looked like a typical customer.
So without further ado, here are the companies and their employees that passed my test on my first pass through the Exhibit Hall:
Here are the 4 that made the cut the second time around:
That’s it. 14 companies.
To those 14 companies, I say thanks for the acknowledgment. To the rest, I bid you good day— until next year.
*The Fastcase/Clio booth and PayneGroup were not part of this experiment since each had people manning the booth with whom I am already acquainted.
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