Talking to EXPO Vendors: They’re Not as Scary as You Think

One of the true gems of ABA TECHSHOW is the EXPO Hall, and without doubt, one of the best uses of your time at ABA TECHSHOW 2013 is to spend some time with the vendors and exhibitors in the EXPO Hall.

In my experience as an ABA TECHSHOW attendee, as a ruthless EXPO Hall explorer, as an ABA TECHSHOW Board member, and as a potential customer (and an actual customer) of various ABA TECHSHOW vendors, I can tell you that spending time with the vendors and exhibitors is an incredibly valuable – if often overlooked – part of your experience. With the vendors and exhibitors, not only will you get a wealth of information from them about their products and services, but you’ll also get an earful about what works and what doesn’t, what legal tech trends you should be on the watch for, and how your practice can become more efficient.

To many vendors, ABA TECHSHOW is the biggest event of the year. They spent more money, commit more resources, bring more employees, and bring the best schwag to ABA TECHSHOW. Oftentimes, you’ll have access to the company higher-ups at ABA TECHSHOW than you would otherwise; you’ll see a lot of vendor CEOs and other C-Level executives wandering the EXPO Hall.

Often, though, attendees prioritize the EXPO Hall low on their list of Conference “must-do’s.” Part of that, surely, is an outgrowth of the amazing and captivating educational sessions planned by the ABA TECHSHOW Board and offered by the Faculty. Part of that, likely, is also due to a lack of awareness on the part of attendees about how useful time spent in the EXPO Hall actually is. But equally culpable is the perception that ABA TECHSHOW’s EXPO Hall vendors are scary, off putting people focused only on reaching into your pockets to take your hard-earned money. This, simply, could not be more inaccurate.

Most vendors in the ABA TECHSHOW EXPO Hall want to meet potential customers who are good reciprocal fits – that is, they want to meet you and spend time with you if their office will be a benefit to you and your practice and if they will benefit from having you as a customer. The last thing that a vendor wants is to spend time talking to someone who can’t effectively use their offerings; that’s a waste for everyone involved…

 ABA TECHSHOW 2013 is offering an amazing collection of exhibitors and vendors. Take a moment to look over the EXPO Hall map, to see the list of confirmed EXPO Hall vendors and exhibitors. While you should take the time to make a list of the “must-see” booths, you should also know that it doesn’t hurt just to wander and see what offerings are out there. You may discover a real gem that you didn’t even know existed!

While you’re planning your ABA TECHSHOW 2013 itinerary, make a real commitment to explore the EXPO Hall. While Conference expositions – especially ones as large as ABA TECHSHOW – can be daunting, remember that it’s not difficult at all to start a conversation with a vendor. They’re here to connect with you, and their entire purpose is to help you understand if and how (or if not and how not!) their product and service can benefit you.

 I’ve had a chance to talk with a few ABA TECHSHOW vendors, and out of those discussions, I can offer you the following tips on interacting with the EXPO Hall vendors and vendor reps:

  • Vendor reps are busy during ABA TECHSHOW, and they don’t have perfect situational awareness. If you’re trying to get someone’s attention, and you’re getting no response, it’s not because they’re not interested. It’s likely because they’re busy with another potential customer or (unsuccessfully) trying to multi-task. Try making direct eye contact, saying hello, or offering a business card with a note that they should call or email you. Be patient if there’s a line of other ABA TECHSHOW attendees are ahead of you, or, just make plans to return to the booth later.
  • The absolute best time to approach a vendor in the ABA TECHSHOW EXPO Hall is while a session is going on. You’ll miss out on valuable faculty insight and CLE credits, but you’ll have personal, one-on-one attention from the vendor.
  • Bring a stack of business cards with you to ABA TECHSHOW 2013. They’ll be invaluable when you’re networking and making connections with fellow attendees, and doubly so as contact offerings to the Expo Hall vendors.
  • Ask tough questions to the vendor. Take the appropriate time to explain your particular practice area, firm type, and need. These sorts of specifics are wholly appropriate and will help the vendors convey information useful to you.
  • Don’t be shy about asking for schwag – pens, squishy balls, sweets, or even the occasional snuggie(!). They want you to take their branded goodies; in most cases, they’ve lugged this stuff across the country for you to have. But, don’t be greedy. If you’re going to take something, at least thank the vendor for their contribution to your goodie bag.
  • Ask vendors about their competitors, about other products and services, or about certain functions that you require as part of your practice. The more questions you ask, the more valuable your time will be.
  • When approaching a booth, tell the vendor rep specifically what you’re looking for. You may just want a quick idea of what their product or service is, or you may have some very specific questions and issues to address. Don’t be afraid of being specific in your introduction and in your information requests.
  • If you’re a current customer, stop by and say hi to your vendor’s reps. Get a business card (and some schwag!) and make connections; that sort of interaction will be helpful to you down the road if you need some quick help. However, if you’re not satisfied with a vendor’s product or service, or are looking for some technical help, please understand that the ABA TECHSHOW EXPO Hall vendor representatives are not a tech support crew. Don’t be vocal in your dissatisfaction; keep it classy and ask for a business card, then send a private email. You’ll get better and quicker results that way.

The time you spend talking to ABA TECHSHOW vendors and their reps is valuable beyond belief. There is information you won’t get anywhere else other than by exploring the EXPO Hall. Follow these simple tips to make the most of your time in the ABA TECHSHOW 2013 EXPO Hall – both for you and for the vendors!

 – Randy A. Juip