In the past year for one reason or another, I joined a couple exhibiting companies at conferences dedicated to industries I had no knowledge about. Substituting a sick friend, simply following curiosity or earning extra cash working as a hostess at a booth that no company’ representatives showed up to. One way, or another I had to bullshit my way out when people came up with insured-specific questions. Doing that I gained invaluable knowledge on how to act like an expert. Can be a useful skill for life..I guess.
Dress appropriately and act confident
We all know that the first impression matters, and choosing the right outfit is crucial. A formal suit to a pharmaceutical conference, slightly artsy outfit to a broadcasting convention and something more fancy to the hotel show. Act as you belong, make eye contact, smile and talk with a confident voice. Saying some vague and general sentence in a positive and confident way would probably leave a better impression than going into specific details but acting nervous and shy. Most of the times people do not expect getting detailed information at conferences, but instead try to make useful connections (I probably wasn’t one of them though) and expand their professional network.
Do your homework
If you have some time for preparations, read thought the website of the company you are presenting and, by all means, check the website of the conference itself. It will give you a perfect summary of all exhibiting companies, major trends in the industry, and you will quickly learn the main buzzwords and terms that you can then casually drop in the conversation. God bless internet – now you are ready to enter and make small (very small) talks.
Subtly avoid answering specific questions
As much as you’ve researched on the web the night before, that still does not make you ready to answer any kind of questions. If someone comes to you with q question, and you are not alone at the stand, you can always say something like “this is more within my colleague’s area of experience, so I would be happy to redirect your question to him/her”. When someone approached me with a specific question about a product/company/service and there was no one else to help out, I got away with saying “The product is still in the prototype stage/it’s a test version, therefore I cannot reveal the price/specifications/measurement yet”…however this is only applicable in certain situations.
Pretend to be a translator
If you happen to know 2+ languages, and you get approached by someone who only speaks one of them and it is not the main language of communication at the event – this is your lucky card. You can translate from his native language while using all the professional terminology he uses but in another language. Makes you sound more professional plus it’s nice to be doing something useful at a place where you feel…so out of place.
Pretend to be a photographer or a social media manager
This way it would make total sense that you know nothing about the industry yet you are hanging out at the conference, making photos, live broadcasts, etc. On the other hand, you might need to start pretending you’re a photographer or a SMM expert…but that sounds a bit easier than faking…lets say, aerospace engineering knowledge.
Why doing all that?
It’s not the conferences that are necessarily the end goal. These skills can be applied to many different life situations – from job interviews and first dates to giving presentations and acting fast in crisis situations. It helps to push yourself outside of the comfort zone once in a while…and the ways to achieve it are endless. I gained a lot of skills and new connections by hanging out at big conventions and conferences taking to people and learning new things. I am sure, everyone can find his own way to practice and…
Fake it till you make it <3