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I went to the Internet Retailer Conference and Exposition in Boston over the past two days and had a very good experience learning from presenters and walking the halls. I haven’t been to many expos, so I sort of went in blind…and I think that was a great thing because I learned a lot. Here are my take aways:

For conferences:
1. If you have the word “Internet” in your title, you should probably make sure your location has wireless Internet access, and lots of it.
2. In the age of social media, it would be brilliant to have projection screens running http://www.search.twitter.com which would encourage tweeting about the conference.
3. Dont surround your gigantic lecture halls with black curtains because it completely kills energy. Also, keep a close eye on the temperature. Too cold and people will start complaining, too warm and it makes people sleepy.
4. Do not station the food directly outside the bathroom. We aren’t camping.
5. Internet Retailer did a fantastic job of customer service as far as badge management (I never stood in line), making sure people wouldn’t get lost (they had a text service where someone would come find you) and bright banners to let expo-goers know which isle they were on. I get lost easy and this was especially helpful.

For Vendors:
1. If you are going to auction off an expensive item, play it up. Tell everyone who passes your booth about it. Tweet it. Have the item there on display. I went to the Verisign booth twice and found out this morning, after the show, that they auctioned off a Vespa. And don’t “auction” off a stuffed animal.
2. Have a couch-but give the couch rules. Couches make your booth look inviting, as long as your sales people aren’t all sitting on it, staring out at people walking by looking bored and unfriendly. Instead, use it as a lure to prospects. When someone stops to talk, ask them to sit down and chat. They will feel welcome and wont want to leave. This gives you more time to talk to them. Also, they can set their stuff down, which frees their hands to look at the brochures and stuff you give them. Better yet, it frees them to take notes.
3. Think like your local hang-out and serve food and refreshments. Not candy: danishes and cookies, coffee and lemonade. Do crackers, cheese and juice. The point is to get people to want to be in your booth, right?
4. No one under 22 should be at your booth, and they should look professional and be able to tell passersby about your company. Yesterday, a company hired a bunch of hot college girls in heels and miniskirts. They were sweet, but when I asked them what their company did, they had no idea and directed me to their male, older bosses. I directed myself out of the booth.
5. Have a twitter, a blog, and a Facebook. More importantly, mention it. I made a point to stop by people who were tweeting about the conference in the past week. Have a virtual presence at the expo as well as a physical presence.

For expo-goers
1. Wear flats.
2. Bring an over-the-shoulder bag.
3. Bring hand-sanitizer.
4. Don’t give personal information out to strangers. I did that at a business event three months ago and the man kept calling my cell to ask for dinner dates. I saw the same guy at New England Exposition leaving with another 20-something blond, but I couldn’t get over there fast enough to catch the girl and rescue her. Use your head with skeeves.
5. Use your manners with social media. Yesterday, many people took the opportunity to tweet rather rude things about speakers during their presentations. That is not the time or the place. My blog is, so I am going to go ahead and say it: @ScottG13 and @PearlGlide are pathetic jerks.

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