As promised to all of our translator colleagues, Bright Light Translation is sharing its experiences gained from our recent visit to Light+Building in Frankfurt with tips and tricks for how you can get the best out of your trade fair visits.
Visiting fairs and conferences specific to the translation industry is an important part of our professional development and a chance to bond with kindred spirits from our linguistic world, but if you’re not considering visiting events that are more specific to your area of specialisation, you could be missing out on a fantastic opportunity to meet new clients, get up-to-date information from your field and experience the industry hands-on. It’s a good idea to know which events, trade fairs and conferences play important roles in your field of specialisation and get involved yourself. Here’s how to get the most out of your visit to a more industry-specific trade fair.
Know who’s coming. Do your research on which companies are exhibiting and who will be visiting. If the trade fair organisers provide a catalogue, order it. The organisers may have an online database of exhibitors. Use this catalogue or database to get together a list of potential clients to target. Research these companies and think about how exactly your services might benefit them and what specifically you can do for them. But don’t limit yourself to only visiting these once you’re there: be open to ‘browsing’ too. You never know who you might meet!
Don’t cut yourself short. If it’s feasible and practical, plan to visit for all days of the event. Build in extra time to take a breather or leave early on a day. It can be an exhausting experience, so make it OK to stop for a bit. You want to be at the top of your game, not dishevelled and under pressure to complete some sort of mission you’ve set out for yourself. If you do decide to go for just one day, make sure you’re well rested and well fed so you have plenty of energy.
Be prepared. Bring updated business cards, and make sure your website and LinkedIn profile are up-to-date. When we went to Light+Building, we had over 100 website visits on the first day. Make sure the people you interact with see the professional, up-to-date version of you that you want them to see.
Don’t switch off. When you’re at the trade fair, you are representing yourself as a professional and your company, whether you are talking to a potential client or queuing up for a coffee at a vendor stand. In the trade fair world, you are not ‘on a break’ by default just because you decided to sit down and have a coffee. So smile and be polite and professional at all times, no matter who you’re talking to. If you need some personal space, go away from other people, find a quiet space, and take a breather.
Keep records. Document which stands you visited and who you spoke to, regardless of their position in the company or whether their role involves translation or decision-making about translation. If someone at the stand directs you to or introduces you to or otherwise indirectly facilitates a meeting with someone else at the stand, record the names (and positions, if you can) of both the person facilitating the interaction and the final second person you speak with.
Talk to the right person. As a translator, you will probably want to talk to someone from the marketing, documentation, communications or PR department. Find out who this person is, whether they’re at the event themselves, and how you can contact them if they aren’t available at that moment. Much like snagging an exclusive interview with an A-list celebrity, networking with the right decision-makers often means making friends with people who could facilitate the meeting. So play nice with anyone you speak to, as you never know how much influence they may have on whether you make a good impression on the company.
Think of questions beforehand. Get clients talking about themselves, then talk about why you were drawn to their stand. Rather than asking whether they need your services (most will say no because they are at the event to sell, not buy), talk about what you like about their company and products, ask them what sort of translation services they already use, ask about whether they have considered terminology management, for example, and try to find a place where you can slot into their pre-existing programme.
Be confident. Let your body language speak for you. You are a well-established professional with the experience and qualifications to get the job done right. Your clients will be in good hands with you. Make sure your body language reflects these truths. Walk with confidence, hold your head high and shoulders back. Don’t just stand around at a stand, waiting for someone to approach you; identify a representative of the exhibitor and approach them. Make sure you already know what you want to say so you don’t falter when you speak to them. Give them a firm handshake, if cultural norms allow. If you yourself believe in the image you want to portray, it will be easy to convince potential clients of it.
Do a practice run. It can be intimidating approaching potential clients, especially if your plan is to speak to them in their language, and that’s not your first language. Relieve the pressure by identifying potential clients who aren’t necessarily at the top of your ‘must meet’ list and approaching them first. Treat it like the real thing (it is!) but know that if something goes wrong in those first approaches, you haven’t blown it on a client you’re really excited about. Take note of the things you weren’t happy about (awkward standing around, fumbled responses, language issues, etc.) and be encouraged by the things you thought went well (despite the nervousness you held your own, despite the odd grammar they seemed to respond well, etc.) Then go for the big clients you really want to pursue.
Know when to stop. Gauge their responses carefully and bow out of the conversation gracefully if you feel you’re headed towards a dead end. Don’t insist on a hard sell. But when you bow out, always leave your business card and always order or take away with you any documentation they might have going (usually product catalogues). It’s better to order something (ONLY IF IT’S FREE!) because your information will automatically go into their books and someone somewhere is going to recognise your name when you do the following step:
FOLLOW UP. This is the most important step. After the trade fair is over, your trade fair work is not complete (yet). Keep a record of which stands you visited and who you spoke to, which companies sparked your interest, and especially which encounters you considered successful, and then follow up your trade fair visit by contacting the company again. It’s best to wait until 1-2 weeks after the fair (but not too much longer) as they will be busy with their own follow-up and you want to give them a chance to sell without being hassled to buy. This also gives companies a chance to post you the catalogues you ordered. Look at the documentation you collected on the company and think about how your services would suit them. Then start emailing and calling.
Most people might stick with email as it’s the most convenient and least stressful, but think carefully before disregarding the telephone altogether. Emails can be ignored; phone calls are harder to avoid. If you think you might end up being ignored, or if you have already emailed and not received a response, it may be best to call, as long as you know who to call. The best way to find that person is to call the main phone line for the company and then ask, “Who should I speak to about your product documentation?” Try to avoid sounding like a salesperson at this point. You are not cold calling; you legitimately ‘met’ the company at the trade fair, and it would be a shame if the receptionist (or whoever answers the phone) thinks you’re an unsolicited caller and fobs you off. Once you have the right person on the line, tell them you were at the trade fair, what you liked about their stand/products you saw, and say which person (or people) you spoke to. Mention them by name (and position if possible). Then go on to talk about the documentation you took away with you or which was posted to you after the fair, and how you thought your services might fit in with their programme. If they’re short on time, try to arrange another time to call. Get a specific time and date, and don’t forget to call again for that ‘appointment’.
We hope these tips will be useful to you. If you are a translator who recently went to a trade fair that was not translation or language-specific, let us know what your experience was like and whether there are things you would do differently. If you have other tips that we haven’t mentioned here, by all means, share them with us!