5 Things You Should Not Do the Week After SHOT Show

Coming home from SHOT Show with all kinds of ideas and new motivations is exciting but may overwhelm you. Instead of telling you what to do, our show veteran offers five things you shouldn’t do — specifically the week after SHOT Show ends.

5 Things You Should Not Do the Week After SHOT Show

Attending the annual SHOT Show might be a pinnacle experience for anyone in the gun industry. Where else can you see hundreds of exhibitors and tens of thousands of attendees — all sharing a keen interest in an industry with historical roots reaching back to the formation of the United States of America and beyond — all under the same roof? Throughout my years of gun industry experience, the end of each calendar year is marked by a near-constant asking of one question: “Are you going to be at SHOT?”

SHOT Show allows attendees to rub shoulders (literally, in jammed convention center hallways and floor exhibits) with some of the greatest names and brands in the industry. It's the place to be if you’re in the gun industry and wanting to network, to grow and to learn.

SHOT Show is near and dear to the industry — you can at the same time both love and hate this multi-day, multi-sensory experience of people and gear — and has even seen numerous people and organizations develop their own show survival guides. For example, one show veteran told me as a newbie this nugget of advice: “At the show, don’t touch your face. And wash your hands or get a squirt of antibacterial lotion at every opportunity.” Really, I thought? That’s your advice? Turns out, he was right. Compressing that many people into a space like that means lots of opportunity for germs.

But that’s true for every trade show. What’s more important about the SHOT Show is the opportunity for you to get a few minutes or more with key industry people — potential business partners or customers and dozens of ideas for managing and growing a business. So networking is a goal of the show, everyone there knows it, and those types of interactions are expected. So how do you make the most of the business potential awaiting you at SHOT? You can find dozens of resources for this online. It will include being bold, spending your time wisely, collecting business cards and other collateral and just taking in the whole experience. You can read about strategies for visiting key booths, how to find and connect with important people and what major announcements to expect. And then it’ll be over and you’ll head home and collapse from exhaustion. And coming home from SHOT Show with all kinds of ideas and new motivations is very exciting but may also overwhelm you. So, rather than tell what you should do, here are five things you shouldn’t do — specifically the week after the show.

Don't Follow Up Personally 

To be clear, you should follow up personally with contacts made at the show; just not necessarily within the first week. The best time to follow up with your contacts is when they said for you to contact them — meaning, you made it a point to ask them, at the show, when you should follow up.

If they said to follow up on the first Monday after, so be it. But the majority of the contacts I’ve made at SHOT usually say something like, “Give me at least a week to recover from the show, get caught up on email,” or something similar. In other words, realize that post-SHOT recovery is a big deal and most people may not be ready to engage a new contact just yet. If you didn’t specify a time to follow up with a contact, wait until two weeks after the show to follow up. Then, start on the Tuesday morning of that week, not that Monday. Spend your first week after the showing getting caught up on what you missed, getting organized for the weeks ahead and planning when and how you will follow up.

Don't Skip Connecting via Social Media

While you wait for that second week after the show to reach out with a more personal communication, you can start making social media connections the week after. This helps create a reasonable cadence to your communications instead of doing everything at once.

Accepting social media connections is, of course, quick and easy, and a good idea when names and faces are relatively fresh. Start minimally with LinkedIn and then determine if it is sensible to also connect via other social media channels. Pro tip: Don’t immediately go for the hard sell once you connect with someone; give the digital relationship some time to develop, building trust through judicious communications. 

With all social media, you’ll find your contacts may not be as active on one channel compared to another. Make appropriate requests to connect on the channels that seem active and consider the wisdom in just sticking to only one or two channels (unless the contact is active across several). In other words, it doesn’t do any good to connect with a contact who’s on Twitter but who has six followers and hasn’t tweeted since 2015. But if that contact’s Instagram account is active and up to date, that’s probably the better connection to make.

When connecting on LinkedIn, be sure to personalize every connection invitation: “Hi [name], we met at SHOT. Hope you had a great show! I’d like to reach out to you in the next couple weeks but would like connect with you first here on LinkedIn.”

Don't Rely on the Business Cards

Don't hope the stack of business cards you collected will be enough to jog your memory.

I’m as guilty as the next person of coming home with stacks of business cards, thinking, “Oh, I’ll remember the conversation with so and so.” For me, it’s too easy to forget the nuances of an interpersonal communication without writing something down in that moment, so I keep a Sharpie — not a ball-point pen, not a pencil — with me when I collect a business card and jot a note with key conversation points on the card. That’s old-school, sure, but it works. 

Alternatively I’ll take a picture of the card with my phone and import it into Notes or Evernote or some other online note-taking tool and jot a couple additional notes right there on the spot. That method is okay but I much prefer ink and paper when I’m in the middle of a conversation with a person. It just seems more personal and less detached. Other tips: Some people keep Post-It notes handy and then literally stick a note to the business card they just collected. And then they put the card/note into an expanding file folder or into a three-ring binder. Whatever you do, do more than merely collect a business card without any note as to context, points discussed, etc. And do it right when you collect the card at the show.

Don't Treat All Leads the Same Way

Because you’ve carefully annotated the business cards you’ve collected,  you’ll know which should receive your priority attention and which can wait for another day. The short of it is: Consider the time and effort you’ll put into each follow-up.

Surely at the show you realized that some contacts were a great match, where you and the contact hit it off, and where you have some surety as to whether the interaction will turn into a viable business relationship. And surely at the show you realized that some contacts were, well, two contacts who happened to be in the same industry, but it wasn’t a great match, you didn’t hit it off, and there’s little evidence to require anything more than a social connection or perhaps even a “thank you” email.

Spend your time on the best leads. Know who your best leads are with careful annotation and prioritization. But if you collected a card, do follow up with something as you never know when just a simple connection now will turn into a more viable business relationship later.

Don't Ignore Show Materials You Brought Home

You picked up printed show materials and giveaways for a reason: at the time they resonated with you in some way or another. Despite having the extra stuff and more weight to haul around and transport home, I tend to collect show materials — especially show guides, which usually list all the exhibitors — and try to refer to them later.

Of course, if you determine a flyer or handout or brochure adds no value to your enterprise, you’re free to throw it out and not let it burden you a minute longer. At times, however, you’ll refer to these materials and can use the information in follow up conversations with contacts. 

I’ve appreciated it when others who follow up with me refer to a specific point in a piece of marketing collateral I’ve handed out (or a bit of information on a website) as a point of reference. It tells me that person has taken the time to read the material, think about it and interact with me on it. So I try to afford the same courtesy to them. The key is to be genuine and thoughtful. And it starts with having the actual materials (or at least the information) in hand.

As you can see, many “don’t” lists are just “do” lists in reverse. The keys to maximizing the week after the show is to maximize your efforts before and during the show. Of course it’s exciting to just get to the show and take it all in. But a little planning and thoughtfulness will make the week after the show more productive — for both you and the contacts you make there.


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