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It’s very true. While I do cost reduction consultancy, I don’t go to trade shows which are only going to be filled with other consultants. Instead, I hit the trade shows where my potential clientele hang out.

Especially around opening, closing, and lunch times, there’s a lull in wanderers-past, and (apart from the opening time on the first day and the closing time on the last) the staff can be a little bored with no-one to talk to. This is where I drift in and strike up a conversation about their business, get some idea of how they’re structured and what they do, formulate an elevator pitch tuned to their particular setup, and go from there.

It’s surprising how many high-level managers turn up at these things (possibly looking to network with other high-level managers?). It’s not always just booth bunnies and interns behind the counter. I’ve found myself talking with CxO people of fairly large organisations more than once, either across the table or because the booth staff introduced us before or after a seminar that the exec was there to present.