LIBRARIAN, CONFERENCES, VENDORS AND EXHIBIT HALLS: PROFITING FROM PROXIMITY

handshakeChuck Lowry is an enterprise sales rep for Fastcase, the winner, with Hein, of the 2014 AALL new product of the year award. Chuck can be reached at 202.999.4975 or clowry@fastcase.com.

The other day, I got my thirty-year pin in the mail from AALL. Now this only poses a mid-life crisis for me if I am able to live to one hundred twenty-eight years of age, and my family history screams that such a span is unlikely. Still, I like to think that there may be some benefit to others in thinking about my experience dealing with law librarians, especially at conferences. Much of what I say will be obvious to those of you who have attended several conferences; if I am only able to help you express or articulate what you have learned from the conferences, that will perhaps be useful to some of our readers.
This is not the place to lay out a comprehensive plan of attack for the entire AALL or SLA conferences; both of them are venues very rich in opportunities from the programming, the exhibit hall and the socializing. What I propose to do is to offer three or four practical hints that will, I hope, help you maximize the value of your exhibit hall time.
IT’S OKAY TO HAVE AN AGENDA. A retired librarian, attendee at dozens of national library conferences, once told me that she had a very useful mental trick while planning her exhibit hall assault: “I like to imagine that I am not managing library staff and library resources, but I am assembling them de novo.” She knew, of course, that I would be impressed by de novo. That is perhaps an even more useful step now than it was a dozen years ago, when it was first voiced to me. Law firm libraries live in a world where the only constant is change, and practically every budget year starts fresh. The old assumptions are pretty much gone, so do not close your mind to any product or service that can make your library more effective and more efficient, even if you have not previously considered it.
NOW THAT YOU ARE OUT OF THE OFFICE FOR A COUPLE DAYS, THINK OF THE FUTURE, NOT THE PRESENT. Sure, you had an awkward conversation with the CFO only Wednesday about transactional charges, and three vendors have told you that they want an increase because they have not had one in two years, and your best reference librarian has an offer to go to another firm, but you can think about that when you get back. For two or three days, take advantage of what is in front of you. Let us look at just one example. Do you feel like you are not getting a firm enough handle on usage of your various resources? You will need more comprehensive data, firm-wide and by practice group, to allocate your budget? Well gee, OneLog and Priory Solutions will both be there, and I’ll bet they will be happy to see you. And you are certainly able to have a more informal, low pressure conversation in the exhibit hall than if you made an appointment and had someone come to the office, which elevate the pressure on both parties. Use the exhibit hall contact to determine if you want to have someone come to the office for a more detailed presentation.
THE EHIBIT HALL IS A GOOD PLACE TO FORM AN IMPRESSION, BUT A BAD PLACE TO MAKE A DEAL. When you look at a product or service in an exhibit hall, the wireless may be so-so, the right sales rep may be on a break, in the noise and confusion the presenter may not have formed a clear idea of what you want to see, in the noise and confusion you may not ask the right question or have at your side the trusted colleague whose perspective for this one thing will be crucial. Use the conference to form an impression. Is the vendor responsive and knowledgeable? Are the folks at the booth listening to you rather than reciting canned presentations? Do you see them outside the exhibit hall? After all, a vendor with a strong commitment to an association and an industry will most likely have a strong commitment to individual customers as well. Use the impressions you get of the product, service, vendor and vendor personnel to determine if you want to follow up. The exhibit hall is a better place to explore a relationship than to formalize one.
NO LIBRARIAN BUYS 100% OF DEMONSTRATED PRODUCTS AND NO VENDOR EXPECTS TO CLOSE 100% OF PROSPECTS. It’s fine. You can still be pleasant, still even be friends. Things change rapidly in this industry, and it’s easier to meet on a bridge that has not been charred.
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