Whether you are attending your first CES as CEO or returning to E3 for the tenth time, make the most of it. Many leaders fail to maximize the benefits of attending a trade show or event. Instead, they show up, walk the trade show floor, listen to a few presentations, hold a few meetings, and leave. Many of the inspiring talks, products, big ideas and thought-provoking discussions are left in the conference arena or shared with just a lucky few.
While you may have influenced which invitations you accepted and stage-managed your press event, consider how you can spark creative ideas that will benefit your customers and inspire your employees.
11 Creativity-Sparking Ideas
1. Don't hang around with the same people
While it may be tempting to use all of your time catching up with old industry friends and visiting your current vendors, remember to carve out some time to connect with newcomers to the industry, that CEO you admire, or someone you have asked for an introduction to.
2. Capture the excitement on film
Instead of sending an e-mail update to your team with your post-event insights, take lots of pictures or even record a short video live at the event on your phone. Share the photos and video with your team when you return.
3. Invite a rising star to shadow you
Most invitations to trade shows and conferences are as precious as Gollum's ring. Mix up the guest list by inviting one of your most successful team members to join you. Let him or her shadow you for all meetings and events and ask your team member to share his or her thoughts after the event with the rest of your company.
4. Pose provocative questions
What did you learn at the event, how will it change your business, products, or customer outlook? What provocative questions can you ask your team when you return?
5. Attend the awards evening
Even if your company didn't win, attend the awards ceremony to learn who is breaking new ground and who is leading the way in your field.
6. Don't dismiss the ridiculous too soon
Did you hear about the WiFi kettle? Before dismissing crazy ideas as stupid, talk about how the sublime and ridiculous ideas could apply to your company and products.
7. Pay attention to your customer's reactions
While no business should blindly follow the competition, you should follow how customers are reacting to competitive offerings--especially at tradeshows and product launch events. Read customer forums and industry-influencer blogs; listen to what is resonating.
8. Make bold predictions
Use what you learn at the event to share with your team the key ideas, your own point of view, and where you stand on hot topics or what you think will be a hit or a flop.
9. Showcase failures
Don't forget to talk openly about the outtakes, whether it's a product demo gone bad, a speaker who lost his words, or a PR blunder. This isn't about ridiculing those involved but making it acceptable to make mistakes and learn from them. Ask your team these questions: "If that happened to you, what would you have done in the moment? How could you have prevented it from ever happening?"
10. Get your creative, technical, and business teams talking
Too often the recaps and debriefs take place on the plane ride home or in small teams after the event. If marketing only talks to marketing and developers only talk to developers, it will limit the ideas that come from your post-event discussions. Mix it up to encourage everyone to see the world through different viewpoints.
Hold breakfast discussion groups with a small group of employees and ask:
--What does this mean for our customers?
--What can we learn from what we have seen?
--What might we want to accelerate or slow down as a result?
11. Fill your feeds with innovation ideas, not parties and food pictures
Who cares what happened at the opening party or how much sleep you got? Share stories about innovation and cool new products or at least learn to set your social media privacy settings appropriately.
As you fly back from your trade show or conference, consider how you can make the event work for you, your team, and your customers. Think about how you can maximize what you've learned and share it in a way that will inspire your team and improve your products and services.