Episode 443

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In-person networking is still a big deal. After a brief Covid hiatus, trade shows, conferences, and workshops are back and bigger than ever. So, if you or your team plan on attending any of these events soon, it’s important to get up to date on the do’s and don’ts of networking at these events.

Instead of being stuck with a stack of business cards and struggling to recall conversations with specific individuals from an event, seasoned keynote speaker Dave Delaney shares how to manage and nurture your client and prospect interactions effectively.

Not sure how to strike up a conversation with a prospect or keynote speaker? Or what about when you get home from the event and still want to close a potential sale without sounding too spammy? Dave shares insights on approaching these topics and more during this episode.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.


What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Why in-person networking is still essential
  • How we get networking and connecting with others wrong
  • Networking best practices for competitors, prospects, and keynote speakers
  • The etiquette behind not being creepy or pushy to your peers
  • How to get people’s information while you’re at the show
  • Don’t count on the other person to reach out to you after the show
  • How to create meaningful relationships with people after trade shows and conferences
  • Focus on relationship-building over getting someone in your sales funnel

“The magic happens when you meet people in person, regardless of whether you're shy, introverted, or extroverted.” - Dave Delaney Click To Tweet
“It's important not to disregard anyone for their current job title, regardless of even if you consider them a competitor.” - Dave Delaney Click To Tweet
“One of the most important things to do is you want to get their information so that you can follow up with them after the conference.” - Dave Delaney Click To Tweet
“Only ask for a business card from someone that you feel that you can help, that you can provide value to, or someone that you liked.” - Dave Delaney Click To Tweet
“Chances are, you’re probably selling a pretty expensive service. You don't want to say the same thing to everybody. You really want to spend some time customizing that outreach.” - Dave Delaney Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Dave:


Hey, everybody, Drew here. You know, we are always looking for more ways to be helpful and meet you wherever you’re at to help you grow your agency. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve produced this podcast for so long, and I’m super grateful that you listen as often as you do. However, there are some topics that are better suited for quick hyper-focused answers in under 10 minutes. That’s where our YouTube channel really comes in. For quick doses of inspiration, best practices, tips and tricks, head over to youtube.com/the at sign Agency Management institute. Again, that’s youtube.com/the at sign or symbol.

And then Agency Management Institute, all one word. Subscribe and search the existing video database for all sorts of actionable topics that you can implement in your shop today. Alright, let’s get to the show.

Welcome to the Agency Management Institute community, where you’ll learn how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money, and keep more of the money you make. The Build a Better Agency Podcast, presented by a White Label IQ is packed with insights on how small to mid-size agencies are getting things done, bringing his 25 years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant. Please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Hey everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. We are marching our way to episode 500, so that’s exciting. I can remember starting this podcast kind of in a lark in 2 0 0 7 and think, you know, well, we’ll see how this goes. And so far, knock on wood, it seems to be going all right. So thanks for being a listener. Thanks for spending time with us, and thanks for being here today. Before I tell you a little bit about our guest and the topic, I wanna tell you about one of the speakers I’m super excited about who’s coming to the summit. So, as you know, we hold a conference every year, 350 agency owners and leaders coming together to learn how to run the agency more profitably, more, more sustainably in more stable way.

And obviously with the hopes that you can scale and build something that one day if you want to, you can sell. So the conference topics are just like a MI all focused on the back of the house, how to run the business better. And so one of the, one of the keynote speakers is a woman named Casey Brown. And Casey is a pricing expert. Casey has done some amazing things for some a MI agencies, but she’s gonna, she’s gonna spend 45 or 50 minutes talking to us about how to understand pricing concepts and methods and identifying actionable pricing opportunities. So this is gonna be a very action packed, a very, how to do a keynote, not something pie in the sky, but really giving you some tools and tips.

Casey believes that most pricing decisions are made from fear, not from confidence, instead of pricing to win most sellers price not to lose. And if that sounds familiar to you, then you’re gonna want to hear this keynote. Even with a perfect pricing strategy, margins still shrink in the face of outta control, discounting, and fear-based pricing. So Casey will launch us onto a path of improving our pricing, dramatically increasing profits and growing sales. And she does it in a really entertaining and interactive way. She’s gonna tell us great stories, she’s gonna give us great examples, and most importantly, she’s gonna give us some very practical, ready to implement steps to drive pricing up so we can drive profitability and without losing sales.

So, super excited about that. If you are, if you have not bought your ticket yet, we still do have some. So head over to agency management institute.com and in the upper left corner, there’s A-B-A-B-A Summit navigation tab. Click on that, click on registration, and you’re all set. We’d love to have you with us. If you are a member at any level, please remember that you’re welcome to join us for Member day on Monday, May 20th, before the actual conference starts on Mon on Tuesday, May 21st. So the conference itself is Tuesday the 21st, and Wednesday the 23rd. We’d love to have you there, and we would love to help you learn from really smart folks like Casey.

Alright, so today’s topic is one. So post Covid, many of you are back on the road. You are traveling to conferences, trade shows, some of you are speaking at conferences and trade shows. And if you remember from our 2023 Agency Edge research series where we asked clients how, when and where are they likely to give their existing agency more money, more budget. One of the things they said to us was, I wanna spend more time with the agency owner and the agency leaders, but I don’t want to be sold to, I want them to pitch me ideas and I want us to learn together. And one of the things they identified, which I thought was honestly a little surprising and very interesting, is one of the, one of the places they wanna hang out with you more is trade shows and conferences.

They’re already there, they’re out of the office, they’re already thinking bigger picture. They’re there to learn and they would like to do that with you. So if that’s not on your radar screen with either your existing clients or prospects, or both, maybe it should be for 2024. So our guest today is gonna help us get ready for that. So Dave Delaney is a keynote speaker. He has written some books. He has a depth of expertise on how to really show up at a conference or trade show or workshop in a way that allows you to build your network to create connections that matter, that lead to opportunities and referrals. And so we’re gonna learn from him the do’s and don’ts of trade shows and workshops and conferences.

So without any further ado, let’s welcome him to the show. Dave, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Thank you, Drew. Yes, I am excited to be here with you today.

So give everybody a little bit of your background, how you came to know all of these tricks that you’re gonna teach us about trade shows and conferences. And then I’m gonna dig into the questions ’cause I know you have a lot to teach us.

Yeah, absolutely. So I, where do I begin? Well, I wrote a little book called New Business Networking All about using events, organizing your own events, but also attending trade shows, conferences, summits, you know, all of the things, how to grow your business, build relationships at all of these things. So, but the book itself is also about networking online and offline. So also using social networks, social media, content marketing, all that good stuff that helped to grow agencies through networking. So I’m very passionate about the topic. It’s something that I’ve practiced what I preached. And yeah, so it, you know, it it for me right back, it gets back to like moving from Toronto back in 2007 to Nashville, Tennessee where I live now.

So 16 years, but really not knowing anyone before moving here and how I networked my way into getting some jobs and ultimately starting my own business.

So how’s that changed since Covid

As far as like networking at events and things, or just growing businesses or,

Yeah, I, in terms of networking, like what, what changed post covid? I mean, obviously during Covid, and we’ll get into the online and, and live event thing. Obviously during Covid it was all online, but has, has Covid changed anything or are these tried and true methodologies that have worked since the dawn of time?

I think fundamentally they have worked for the test of time, right? However, CO obviously changed things in that if you weren’t familiar with a little company called Zoom, which is now really a verb, you know, it, it, things change obviously. So like, I, like, for example, I was, I’m a keynote speaker, so I do a lot of presentations about communication strategy, communication skills, networking, obviously being one of those topics. And I was, I was speaking in March of 2020 or April, I can’t remember, but to 6,000 people at a women’s business conference in San Francisco.

And of course that was the big, that was the first one that I had a rapidly pivot and suddenly we were doing it all virtually. And so I believe networking is most effective if you’re doing it the right way in person. And I believe that nowadays, even though many of us have gotten used to doing this, looking at webcams, I really do believe that the magic happens when you get outta your house or office and, and meet the people in person, regardless of whether you’re shy or introverted or extroverted or what have you.

It doesn’t really matter. You, you need to get out.

Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And I, we even see it with employees, right? I mean, agencies have gone either completely virtual or hybrid, and they’re struggling to create culture and connectivity with the employees. And man, they do a two day retreat and it’s magic. People just have being together.

Yes, absolutely. I speak at a lot of retreats. In fact, I’m doing one in a couple of weeks again, and you’re, you’re spot on about that because you need to bring your your teams together too. And, and to your point, right? Like, so, you know, when we went fully remote, because we didn’t really have a choice with quarantining and all that good stuff, when we switched to even the hybrid model, a lot of businesses didn’t really, they weren’t really clear on how they were communicating those hybrid rules or, or Right. You know, so what happened was, you know, some people would come in the office Monday and some would come in Wednesday, and, and what would happen is the office would be empty when they came, came in.

Yeah. Which kind of defeats the purpose really, because the magic in, in person at work comes just like conferences and things when you’re actually there in person. So yeah,


And the collaboration, the serendipity, the spontaneity, like all those things happen. In fact, I wrote a blog post on my [email protected] on that site about, I called it Smoking with the Boss, and it was using a, a reference from a friend’s episode many years ago.

Oh, right. Where Rachel is smoking with her boss. Yeah, yeah. I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that I immediately know what that is, but there you have it.

Oh, I’m also embarrassed that I, I am referencing friends, but I will be the first to admit that that is the only plot line I remember. And it’s, and for those who aren’t familiar, there was a new, a new bo or a new employee who was, who was just getting in and with the boss and Rachel got jealous. And so she realized that they were becoming so close because they were always out on smoke breaks together. So Rachel pretended she smoked in order to to, and hilarity ensued. So anyway, of

Course it does. Right, right. So how do we get this wrong? Because you would, you would think, you know, I the audience, these are articulate, curious, good, smart people, they’re used to connecting with other people. They know that the, the core of their business businesses relationally based. So you would think that nobody is better at networking than this listening audience than agency people. We should be great at this. So what do we do wrong?

I think what happens a lot of the time is we approach networking in this take, take, take mindset, right? We’re networking to get the next client. We’re Networking to upsell somebody, we’re networking to make money, make money. And in a sense, I mean, we are attending conferences and things to grow our businesses, so let’s not be, you know, naive there or anything. But, but, but truth be told, I mean, it’s a relationship game. Business is all about relationships and the you’ll align, you know, people do business with those they know, like, and trust and respect. And if you are attending events and whipping business cards at everybody, you meet like, you know, like a Vegas dealer throw and throwing playing cards.

Yeah. You’re not gonna, you’re not gonna get a lot of calls back after that. And so a big part of Networking, what I talk about networking and, and how I advise my clients is to focus on the three ups of networking. So the first is to show up, the second is to follow up, and the third is to catch up. And if you’re doing all those three things effectively, you’re gonna grow business ultimately by building relationships. And also, you know, an important point about networking is it’s a two-way street, right? So you’re, you’re planting seeds is a good way to think about it.

So what does that look like? So what, when you teach people how to, what, what, what are the best practices for networking? So let, let’s say I’m going to an, an industry trade show or conference. So everyone there ha half the people are my competitors and the other half are my prospects. And I probably have a couple clients there too. So how should I approach that kind of an event?

Yeah, great, great question. So what I started doing was advising, what happened was I was at an event not that long ago as a speaker. I was the keynote speaker at this conference that was sort of in an industry kind of foreign to me, but because I speak on soft skills around communication strategy, though I can, you know, it’s, my, my message is often pretty audience agnostic. Yeah. And what happened was, I was, I was speaking at this conference and I sat in on the other sessions and all the other speakers were pretty bad. And their decks were, you know, their presentation slides were, you know, white with like 25 bullets. And they were talking to the slide to the screen rather than the audience and, and so on and so on.

And people were shifting in their seats and leaving. And, and I witnessed this, and then I went and, and walked around the show floor afterwards at the exhibit hall. And I, I noticed that most people were, most exhibitors were on their phone just kind of standing be, you know, maybe on a seat sitting kind of under their booth, right. You know, just, just perusing whatever they were perusing on their phones. And I realized that with my experiences around networking, my experiences around content, around public speaking and training on, on all this stuff, I realized that I can help companies improve their outcomes, their return on investment by going to conferences, whether you’re sponsoring or attending.

Right. And this is when I came up with this idea of 10 x conference coaching, which you can find at future fourth, as I mentioned, shim was plug. I know. So to answer your question, you know, when I, I, and I have like a, a free form there that you can book time with me for free and I can give you ideas, which I’m gonna do with you now. So you are preparing to go to a conference. You said half of the people there, your competitors, the other half are prospects. First of all, when you’re, when you’re meeting with competitors, it’s important to remember that, you know, to treat them like a human rather than a competitor. And, and I mean this because things change, right? Agencies evolve, sometimes one buys another.

So sometimes people get frustrated at one agency and they quit. And if they quit, maybe they’re looking for a job and maybe they would be a great candidate for you. So it’s important not to disregard anyone for their current job title, regardless of, even if you consider them a competitor, as far as like meeting new, like meeting prospects at a conference. I mean, the first thing that I would do, and what I recommend my clients do is, is to research who’s going to be there. And that means looking at the exhibitor list, if there is one available, looking at the sponsors listed on the website, looking at the speakers listed on the website. It is a heck of a lot.

And I, I know this firsthand as a keynote speaker, it is a heck of a lot easier to access the speaker before he or she takes the stage, right? Right. Because after they’ve taken the stage, they’re inundated with people. And I always have a line of people asking me questions and all this stuff. So it’s very important if you wanna connect with the speakers to reach out to them before the conference. And so a big part of what you should be planning on and thinking about is preparing for the co conference before you actually even set foot at, at the conference center or the hotel or what have you.

So, so you do a ton of keynote speaking and I do a smattering of it, or I teach workshops or whatever. How often does someone reach out to you in advance?

It doesn’t happen very often, shockingly.

Yeah. Yeah. Well, and I, I think that’s sort of the point too, right? If you want to, if you wanna engage with someone, I think we either, A, don’t bother to do the homework or b we get in our head that this is a important person or a busy person or fill in the blank. And so we don’t wanna be a bother, but most people who are authors or speakers or subject matter experts, it’s not like you’re reaching out to Beyonce, right? I mean yeah, they’re, they’re, they’re not famous like that. And so, right. I think most of them would welcome the interaction and the fact that somebody’s paying attention and excited to hear their message. Is that kind of what you experience when you do that outreach?

Absolutely. But Drew, don’t you know who I think I am?

I’m famous. I know you are

Not at all

Current co company excluded most. Right, right. Genius. Right, right. Yeah.

Yeah. No, you, you, you raised a great point there. And, and the truth, truth is, I mean, most people and getting back to the, you know, working hybrid, working remotely, most, most people, a lot of speakers and so forth are probably like me sitting at home when they’re not in their home office. But they’re not, they’re not out and about. And, and oftentimes they would love someone to talk to. So it’s not a great thing to reach out. So Yes, yes. Absolutely.

All right. So step one is do some homework. Figure out who’s gonna be there harder on the attendee side, right? Probably.

It depends. It depends if you’ve attended that conference before, okay. That’s where there could be you, you have a leg up in that way. The, and that gets into that catching up line of those three ups that I mentioned. But if you don’t know who’s going to be attending the conference, there’s still some ways to do that. So for example, like one of the things you can do is reach out to the actual organizers of the conference, the planners, the people you kind of check to reach out to them and let them know that you would love to connect with some of the attendees before the conference.

And you would be surprised that oftentimes they would be willing to provide some introductions that way

Probably won’t give you the list, but if you’re specific about like, who you’d like to meet or somebody who does this kind of work, they’ll make some introductions. Okay.

Exactly. Yeah. I, I mean the, you have to remember that the conference planners or trade show organizers or what have you, they want the event to be a success, right? So as far as like the the 10 x conference coaching offer that I, that I do, they want it to be a success. They want attendees and sponsors, especially to see a huge return on their investment because if not, they’re probably not gonna return the next year. And so they need, you know, if they do, they’re doing a good job with it, and you reach out and ask for some introductions or some, you know, point, point you in the right direction to some folks that are gonna be there nine times outta 10, I expect that they would respond in a positive way and and facilitate that.

Another thing you can do is look at the sponsors who are gonna be there. ’cause that is something that you will be able to tell, maybe not all the exhibit hall perhaps, but you will at least see on their websites a bunch of logos. Sure. And those are companies worth reaching out to, to get an introduction ahead of time. And again, they might be a competitor, but who knows, maybe they’re pivoting to something else. They’re, so the point is it’s to, is to try to set up, schedule some meetings before the event

And what, and what kind of meetings. So let’s say you’re speaking at a conference and I’m a fan boy and I wanna meet you and I think you might be able to help my business, or you might be a prospect when I, when I reach out to you and we don’t know each other, so we’re having a, a brief little email exchange, right? What doesn’t look predatory or creepy or whatever. When it comes to like, setting up a meeting, is it, is it more like a, Hey, I know they’re serving lunch on Tuesday, you know, could we sit together or like, what’s, what’s appropriate? And, and does it matter if you̵