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COMMENT needed to prove that I knew a lot. As I grew older, I realized that this actually got in the way of my learning. Your knowledge of the industry will come out in the questions you ask and your understanding of what the booth staff is saying. I’ve learned far more from being humble than from being arrogant. In fact, I generally start most of my booth conversations with “Assume I don’t know very much.” You’d be surprised at how happy the booth staff are to help you understand what you don’t know. There are two types of questions I ask: one for booths presenting products or technology that I don’t understand, and a second set for booths with products that I either know or use. If I see a booth with something in it that I’ve never heard about, or in a part of the industry that I don’t normally work, I’ll ask the following questions: 1. I’m not likely to be a customer for this, but I haven’t seen this before. In brief, what is it? 2. Why is this product or technology necessary? 3. Who are potential customers? In three questions and about two minutes of your time, you’ll learn about a new section of the market with an overview of products specifically designed for it. I have been amazed, over the years, how often I used this information shortly after attending a show. I once had an outstanding conversation with a rep from a company that makes broadcast television towers; those metal things that stick up thousands of feet in the air. There was NO WAY I was ever going to buy or build one, but I was curious about how they were constructed. What I learned was so interesting that I now tell it as a story in my classes whenever my students need a break from learning about software. For booths that contain products or services that I either use or know, my questions are different: • What are you showing that’s new? • Why did you decide these new features are necessary? • What parts of the industry/market are hot right now? • What has surprised you in how your products are being used? • What features in your product do you think are the least used or the least understood? I’m a big fan of “Why” and “What” questions because the answers I get often help me get a better understanding of areas of the market that I may not understand fully. SUMMARY Use trade shows as an opportunity to discover parts of the industry you don’t know well. Ask questions. Engage in conversations with companies you’ve never met before. You’ll be surprised how often what you learn can be applied in ways that you never expect. 40 | KITPLUS - THE TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 93 SEPTEMBER 2014