As Shelley mentioned, we’ve conducted networking training for some clients, helping them adopt more effective strategies for making connections at conferences and tradeshows.

Over the years, I’ve heard clients say, “Oh, we went to that show and we never got any business out of it.” (It’s a variation of the “We put an ad in that magazine and never made a sale from it” complaint, but I digress.) That’s because clients view tradeshows as a one-way chance to “sell” themselves and collect leads. And they judge the show’s success on those rigid parameters.

Attending a trade show with the single goal of finding a hot prospect or landing a big contract is like being a pick-up artist in a single’s bar.

You know the guy. He’s got one goal for the night and it’s telegraphed like a big blinking sign on his forehead. Not interested? Fine. He’ll move on to the next target. He’s oblivious to all the cringing and eye rolling.

Please – don’t be that guy.

A tradeshow is simply an opportunity to meet people with whom you share a common interest.

Yes, MEET people. Talk to. Share a drink with. Introduce a colleague to. Sit beside at a seminar. Stand in line with at registration. Make a connection, however big or small.

Ideally, when you meet someone, you make an effort to remember her. Perhaps collect her business card. Offer to be a resource. Add her to your Linked In network. Follow up with useful information when you get back to the office.

In short, develop a relationship. She may never buy your product or service. But chances are, she knows someone who might.

Redefine your goals for tradeshows. Focus on meeting people, not just prospects. Measure success by the number of people you talk with, not the number of hot leads you bring back.

Have fun. Be approachable. Show interest. Follow up. You’ll build relationships for the long term. And that’s as lucky as anybody gets.