Attending a major industry conference can be a valuable opportunity to enhance your professional network, stay updated on industry trends, and promote your brand or business. However, they can be costly, so making the most of these events requires careful planning and execution.
We’re sharing our best tips for how to maximize ROI at industry conferences, covering essential aspects such as marketing collateral, exhibiting, speaking, networking, and more.
Before the conference even begins, there are several steps you can take to set the stage for success:
Research the Conference:
Once you’ve identified the best events for you or your team to attend, it’s important to research where your time will be best spent. Reviewing items like the event’s agenda, speakers, and exhibitors can help you determine when you should arrive as well as to what extent you should participate. Often, conferences will allow you to choose from a range of attendee passes, like just visiting the exhibit hall, to a full all-access credential to attend networking events and speaker sessions. This allows you to better connect with individuals who will have an impact on your company goals.
Develop Marketing Collateral:
Now that you know what events you’re attending and to what level, you can create or update your marketing collateral, such as business cards, brochures, and promotional materials. Not only will you want to make sure they reflect your current branding and messaging, but you’ll also want collateral that makes sense for the event and the team attending. If you’re exhibiting, you are likely to have a more robust display of marketing collateral and promotional materials – think fun giveaways or useful knick-knacks. If you’re just attending and participating in networking opportunities, business cards and scannable QR codes to key digital assets about your company are more practical.
If you’re exhibiting at the conference, it’s crucial to make the most of your presence:
Invest in an eye-catching and professional booth design to help stand out in a room full of competitors. Make sure your branding is prominent and that your booth is inviting to visitors – we like to incorporate seating as well as practical elements such as charging stations that may keep potential leads hanging out for just a few extra minutes. There are a number of exhibition experts who can not only help design but coordinate the delivery, setup and tear down of your display at the event. This not only ensures a smooth show but also allows your team to focus on preparing their collateral and talking points.
Engaging Booth Staff:
Train your booth staff to be friendly, knowledgeable, and proactive in engaging with attendees. Depending on the location of the show, you may not be able to send a full in-house team and need to supplement with local event staff. If you need to hire locally, you’ll want to set aside time to train them prior to the start of the event so they are well-versed in your products or services.
Incorporate interactive elements like product demos, contests, or giveaways to attract and engage attendees. The longer you can keep people at your booth, the greater opportunity you have to build a meaningful connection. Plus, these types of elements also allow you to gather much-needed contact information to aid in your follow-up efforts once the event is over.
Speaking at a conference can establish you as an industry expert and draw attention to your brand.
Submit Proposals Early:
Identify relevant session topics and submit proposals well in advance to increase your chances of being selected as a speaker. Often, conferences will also ask applicants to propose their own speaking topics, so staying up-to-date on the latest industry trends is critical. If you can show the event that you can provide a truly unique perspective or solution to an important industry issue, the more likely you are to be considered.
Prepare Engaging Content:
Craft your presentation with a focus on valuable, actionable content that will benefit your audience. In order to leave a lasting impression, attendees should have tangible takeaways that they can use as soon as they get home.
Promote Your Session:
Use your social media channels, email lists, and other marketing platforms to inform your network about your speaking engagement. Not only do you want to utilize company profiles, but you’ll need to post on your personal professional networks like LinkedIn and X (formerly Twitter). All social media platforms continue to favor personal profiles over corporate ones and will allow you to garner greater reach and impact.
Networking is a primary reason people attend industry conferences. Here are some tips to make the most of your networking opportunities:
Attend Social Events:
Many conferences host receptions, dinners, and social events. These provide excellent opportunities for informal networking. If your company has the budget, be sure to set up your own networking events as well. This allows you to control better who’s invited and the experience they will have. From food and bev to entertainment and venue layout, you can better ensure a good experience for all.
Use Social Media:
Follow the conference’s official hashtag and engage in discussions on platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn. This can help you connect with attendees and other influencers prior to arriving. The more you can get your name and your company’s name out there, the more successful your participation is likely to be.
Plan One-on-One Meetings:
Reach out to specific individuals or companies you want to meet and schedule one-on-one meetings in advance. The individual interactions are often the most impactful and truly give you an opportunity to connect on a deeper level. Setting up a Calendly account to set up meetings is a great way to stay organized!
Your work doesn’t end when the conference concludes. Effective follow-up can help solidify the connections you made and maximize your ROI at industry conferences:
Send Thank You Emails:
Reach out to the people you met with personalized thank-you emails. Mention specific discussions or topics you shared and how you think you can best help their company based on their needs. If there isn’t an immediate sale opportunity, that’s ok! Check in periodically and genuinely show interest in their company or brand. Establishing a positive relationship and staying top of mind is more likely to lead to business relationships in the future.
Share Conference Highlights:
Write a blog post, create a video, or share your key takeaways from the conference on your website or social media. This positions you as an active participant in your industry and provides valuable insight to those who may not have been able to attend.
Connect on LinkedIn:
Extend your professional network by connecting with the people you met on LinkedIn. Personalize your connection requests to remind them of your meeting.
Maximize ROI at Industry Conferences
Major industry conferences can be a goldmine of opportunities for personal and professional growth. By preparing in advance, making the most of your exhibition or speaking opportunities, and engaging in strategic networking, you can maximize your ROI and leave the conference with valuable connections, insights, and a strengthened brand presence. Remember that success at a conference doesn’t end when the event does – effective post-conference follow-up is just as crucial in capitalizing on the experiences and connections made.