Networking and Trade Show Tips For Introverts and Engineers

Sandy Sloane | Solutions by Sloane

For this post we talked with Sandy Sloane, the President of Solutions by Sloane. Her business serves as an extension of her clients’ existing internal training, employee engagement, special events, and public relations teams, complementing and enhancing what they are already doing or what they simply don’t have time to do. Sandy works closely with Nextcorps Luminate, a 6-month intensive accelerator program located in Rochester, NY, the imaging capital of the world.

We asked Sandy questions about her specific offerings, her strategies for networking events and trade shows, and tips for success in the B2B world of networking and selling.

Can you talk about your Networking 101 Workshops? Particularly in the context of engineering and similar industries that you work with at Luminate.

My Networking 101 workshop is a basic primer for those with little exposure to networking, or those who are looking to improve their skills from the ground up. The problem is, people are good at engaging 1-on-1, but find it more challenging in groups, inducing anxiety for some. This is frequently the case in engineering, because engineers and scientists are so focused on numbers and stats, so sometimes, the people skills get lost in the mix. For many, it is easier to work with and focus on objects rather than the relationship building, leading to being less effective way at making connections or growing leads at trade shows.

Networking 101 helps people look to find commonalities in these difficult introductory conversations, how to shake hands, how to have a 1-on-1 conversation and thrive in group conversations. Younger people are so much more comfortable with connecting on devices, so 1-on-1 and group conversations are becoming lost skills. This is a refresher on these aspects of networking and provides the opportunity to practice these skills.

If you could give a ‘checklist’ of activities for successful networking at a trade show, what would that entail?

  • Have an open stance. Be conscious of your body language. Don’t cross your arms, don’t be inching away from them, nod your head, and be actively engaged. Having an open stance that is directed at the person you are talking to lets them know you are available and interested in what they are saying. I like to say it is easier to go through an open window than a brick wall. A closed off stance might as well be a brick wall stopping good conversation, while an active listener provides an open window.
  • Make eye contact. This isn’t just important when you are talking with the person. Whether you are exhibiting or walking by a booth, it is the eye contact that helps initiate the conversation.
  • Find commonalities. Awkward eye contact alone won’t bring all the prospects to your booth. Try engaging with something like, “I like your tie!”, or “Wow! Where did you get that ___?”. Anything that engages the person, releases awkward tension, and gets the ball rolling will lead to greater success.
    • If you are walking the show: Start a conversation with, “I am not familiar with your product/service, tell me about it!”. Looking for a job? Say, “I’d like to follow up with you, can we get coffee next week?”.
  • Dumb it down. At trade shows hosting advanced engineering/manufacturing companies, exhibitors tend to assume that everyone has a deep understanding of their products, but this may not always be the case! Sometimes buyers, students, or anyone else might be walking the show with limited knowledge on the products being displayed. Get away from industry jargon and make it approachable. If a 12-year-old can’t understand what you’re saying, you’re too advanced. Both sides of the table need to make sure they are on the same approachable level of the conversation.

What is the most common mistake you see at networking events and can this be corrected?

The most common mistake today is that people are not putting their phones away. PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. You don’t need it, there are real people in front of you! People are prioritizing electronic interactions versus live interactions, and that is a slippery slope. What does it say to a prospect walking by your trade show booth if you are standing there scrolling through Twitter? Why should they care about your product if it looks like you don’t?

What is your ideal follow-up process for a networking event/trade show?

I have a whole seminar on this called “the fortune is in the follow up”. I always like to say, you can plant a seed for a flower but if you don’t water it, it will just die. So, if you meet someone and don’t follow up with them, you have only done half of your job. Following up allows you to interact with them multiple times, really solidifying you and your business in their mind. Being consistent, saying you will call them and then actually doing so gives the person the impression that you are reliable. One thing that stands out: hand-written notes. If you really want to break through the email, texting, and social media clutter, following up with a hand-written note will do the trick. People love getting personal mail that is not junk mail or bills! It goes a long way.

When it comes to preparation, how much research do you perform on target companies? What collateral is best to have on hand?

This depends on your goals for the event. Let’s look at OptiFab, a recent trade show for advanced manufacturers right here in Rochester. I was there on behalf of NextCorps, so I had information sheets about our organization, my business cards, and invitations to an upcoming tour of our office. If I were there for Solutions by Sloane, I would have my go-to informational packet and my business cards. It is important to research the event and its exhibitors heavily before attending. It is important to:

  • Make sure the event will be worth your travel costs and time.
  • If possible, get the list of attendees (or at least their companies) beforehand and see if the companies are good fit.
  • Bring this list with you and mark the exhibitors as you meet them.

When I give seminars, I connect with the attendee list on LinkedIn before the event. This way people know my face and my history, so there is some context. Doing this before a show will give people a familiar face.


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Regardless of your position in an organization, there will most likely be a time when you will have to endure the awkward encounters associated with networking and trade show exhibitions. This is an exciting experience for some, but for others it requires practice and preparation to have the necessary confidence. Follow these tips from Sandy and take a look at our Definitive Trade Show Planning Kit to effectively prepare yourself for your next event.

Sandy is available to present her seminars to companies and organizations. Contact her at or at 954-707-2652.


About Launch Team, Inc.

We are a multi-dimensional, highly focused marketing firm that has helped companies in technical and engineering-driven industries succeed. We've been doing this for over 30 years, increasing and improving our offerings along the way. Our team's backgrounds include optics, chemistry, biology paired with a core business and marketing focus. This allows our team a unique understanding of your business, the decision makers you work with, and the engineers who will evaluate your solution.