Lessons from SWaMfest!

Posted: September 29, 2011

Last week I attended SWaMfest, a conference by the Virginia Association of State College and University Procurement Professionals.  SWaM is a designation given to Small, Woman-owned and Minority-owned businesses. VisionPoint Marketing satisfies all of these requirements (Triple SWaM!). 

Over two days in Richmond, I networked with purchasing professionals from all seven VASCUPP schools  (Virginia Tech, UVA and George Mason all attended) as well as entrepreneurs, business leaders and representatives from several vendor sponsors led by Skanska, Adobe and BB&T.

One thing I appreciate about my role at VisionPoint (and one of my greatest challenges) is representing our company at such events.  Figuring out how best to use your time at these things is tough – but here are my suggestions on how to be most effective:

  1. Be the best dressed in the room, you become instantly memorable.
  2. Be very early.  Use the extra time to secure optimal positioning.
  3. Know your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Also know your competition and how your offering is different
  4. Diversity is wonderful. Interact with people from different backgrounds and industries. Challenge yourself to find something in common.
  5. Ask probing, not superficial questions of the people you meet.
  6. Make friends early. This will pay off big time when you’re looking for a seat or wanting an introduction to a specific contact.
  7. Minority credentials are not meant as a differentiator. When making an introduction, lead with your company’s capabilities and experience. Certification is a bonus. Expecting more is bad business.
  8. Don’t whine about being a small business.  Suck it up and be proud.
  9. Hang out in the lobby or hotel bar after the event. This is where the real conversations happen.

Do you have additional suggestions? If so, please share!