My first national conference

We have some pretty specific goals at RedTree this year and the overarching theme of them all is growth. Growth of our team, our business, services and connections.

Earlier this year I was certified as a LGBT business owner. Yes people, in case you didn’t know this, I am gay. You can read all about me to learn more. Right after my certification was issued I received a call from the NGLCC (National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce) asking if we wanted to attend their conference in a few months in Tampa Fl. I JUMPED at this opportunity to be able to grow.

This was going to be my first large conference and although I was very excited, I also had no idea what I was walking into. I did have two main goals before getting there:  1) Practicing my pitch and 2) Exchanging ideas.

Pitching

My first attempt at pitching was with other suppliers. We’ve found great success with partnering with other agencies to come in and fill a capacity if/when needed. We have a very specific offering with a small but mighty wonder team so it works well for everyone. I didn’t really “pitch” during these meetings; I felt it was more relationship building, so I focused more on fact-finding than selling.

The very last thing the conference offered was what they referred to as “Matchmakers,” which would partner you up with corporate buyers and give you an opportunity to pitch your business and potentially work with them.

Before going into Matchmakers I wanted to practice my Pitch, so I went to the company expo and walked up to each booth and said. “Hi, my name is Meesha Gerhart and I’m the founder of RedTree. We are a web agency that specializes in user experience and full-stack development.” Now when I would say this, some people would just look at me and blink a few times. I knew then that they weren’t my ideal target audience but I needed to practice, so I went to the next booth and did the same thing.

After all of that I realized that if the corporate matchmakers were going to be effective, I needed a middle ground between listening and pitching. With three meetings scheduled, I had some room to test the theory. The first flopped because I told them what they needed and how I could help their corporation. The second one was better but I was listening too much and didn’t get to providing a solution for them. The third one hit the mark, which was a combination of “Here is what my company does but I’d love to hear what you’re looking for and how we can help, before I start telling you how I can help.” This seemed to be the sweet spot. I always need to make sure I do the research upfront in case they say, “Go ahead and tell us how you can help,” but most of the time I don’t know how RedTree can fit in without knowing what they are trying to achieve.

Exchanging of ideas

We use a lot of tools in our industry and I know there are a TON more that we could be using. Plus everyone has little tricks and tips about how to handle clients, create solid processes and staying current. For our partners I’m always willing to tell them what tools we are using with the simple goal that it will help another small business.

The biggest exchange of ideas was in the meetings I had with other corporate buyers. The biggest need I saw was either around connection, communication or product demo. Corporations, just like most businesses, are still working on how to effectively communicate and connect with the people in our circle. For most corporations like Ernst & Young, Merck, Pepsi and Allstate, that is a pretty big circle, so remaining connected with them is mandatory.

With this being my first national conference I’m happy I went into it with the right mindset and made some amazing connections. I even had a group right from my hometown of Pittsburgh that was there with me. I’ll be looking forward to another year and making more connections.

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