How to Maximize the Impact of Your Conference Attendance
With Inbound and CMWorld just completed, the Sales Enablement Society Annual Conference this week, and Dreamforce right around the corner, you know that we’re in the midst of marketing and sales event season! Actively participating in industry events and sharing ideas with our peers is an important way for us to keep abreast of current trends and best practices, as well as learn about the newest martech and salestech product developments, so that we can help our customers be more successful. Conferences are also an excellent way to develop yourself personally, so here are some best practices to help you make the most of the upcoming industry conferences that you attend.
Pre-event prep: networking begins early
Almost all conferences use hashtags. If you start following the hashtag prior to the conference, you will be in-the-know and three times better prepared to maximize your learning on-site — versus your peers who plan on just showing up. While at the conference, those hashtags will help you connect with your fellow attendees as they share their conference likes and dislikes. Sometimes, you can even get a synopsis of a session without actually attending, through an attendee’s social media posts.
You also want to know who is presenting. These are the leaders or even rockstars of our industry and will provide invaluable knowledge, whether the content directly interests you or not. The presenters have been able to elevate themselves as thought leaders for a reason and they will typically excite and inspire attendees, no matter the content.
Planning which conference sessions you’ll attend is very important. Be realistic about how many sessions you can attend and have a plan for how you will capture your notes, photos or video content and share them with your network. Connect with each of the presenters to be sure that you know how to get a copy of their presentation and to learn how you can ask questions presented by your team post conference.
Know your network and whether they are attending. It’s taken your career to build a quality network and you should be leveraging those individuals who will be attending the conference as well. You should be making a complete list of connections, qualified prospects, vendors, and even job candidates with whom you want to touch base. Consider setting up meetings ahead of time to ensure that your day or schedule does not get away from you.
While onsite: connect in person and online
Networking sessions or Meet-ups commonly occur at the beginning and end of each day and offer an opportunity to connect with peers and prospects. Don’t miss these! They are usually full of energy and offer an opportunity to share and learn from your peers. These sessions are great places to strengthen existing relationships and create new ones.
Social media becomes even more important now that you’re onsite. You can share content with your teams that you previously developed based on the topics of the sessions you plan to attend. Simply leave the stats out and fill them in once the presenter has provided you with the latest information or best practices.
By continuing to follow the hashtags described previously, you will be alerted to last-minute promoted sessions, special opportunities or changes to the agenda. Remember, at a minimum you should be Tweeting, live blogging, posting to Instagram and any other social networks you feel are important. If the conference has an app, download it and you will probably have access to far more than just a schedule. Many apps also include presenter information, session attendees, content, and a way to easily ask questions and connect with fellow attendees.
Set goals for the types of contacts that you want to meet and why you want to meet them. If you are meeting with a candidate, then it is about recruiting; a peer, maybe it’s competitive intelligence. Whether it is a VAR to develop new partnerships or a new customer prospect, there’s a big advantage to knowing your objectives and mentally preparing yourself to achieve them.
The conference exhibitors and sponsors, industry suppliers, are some of your best contacts if you want to learn more about the current business climate. You can discover innovative products and services that will help your business stay competitive. Plus, the vendors who continuously sell to you and your peers fully grasp what is happening inside your industry and with your competition. Invest time with the sponsors at the event and turn them into your friends and allies. You may just get a great referral.
Post event: use and share what you’ve learned
Now that the conference has ended, you have a responsibility to yourself, your peers, customers, and prospects alike. Take the knowledge that you have obtained and use it, as planned, to benefit both you and your organization. But remember, many do not have the time or resources to attend an important industry conference. It is your job to gather as much information as possible and distill it down so that these individuals can benefit from your attendance. As an added benefit, being part of the event, using what you have learned, and contributing to the post-meeting buzz will also get your name out there as a thought leader and contributor for your industry.
Which B2B sales and marketing industry events are you excited about attending this season? Connect with me on Twitter and let’s keep each other updated with all the latest salestech and martech learnings!