I really do love conferences. When I’m at a conference, I’m totally in my element. I always look forward to certain events I attend every year like 90 Minds Meeting of the Minds, ITA, Sage Summit, and GPUG Summit to name a few.
But at one point in my career, I started to question the return on the investment, both of my time and of my employer’s money. I had a small child at the time, so traveling was that much more of a burden on my family, and I realized that if I was going to be away, and my company was going to be allocating funds for it that could be used elsewhere, then I needed to make every waking moment count.
There are all sorts of tips to share on branding, booth layout, lead collection, etc., but these tips focus more on the networking aspects:
- Start by reminding yourself of the potential. All the tips below are going to require extra effort, so push through and keep reminding yourself of the value of face time. Think about how many calls/demos/site visits you’d have to make throughout the year to build the same rapport you can get from sitting down with people over coffee (or realistically, their beverage of choice) at a conference. Remind yourself constantly of this during the conference.
- Get involved. Get on a committee if they have them. Request to present on an educational topic. Volunteer to stand in the common areas and help people find sessions, lunch, etc.. All of these provide for opportunities to meet people you may not otherwise encounter.
- Keep coming back. Think of the conferences you’ve attended regularly. Compare your experience the first time with your experiences in later years. It takes time to build a presence and make connections. It can snowball nicely for you.
“I think consistency is a key attribute. I realize that requires an investment, but the ones who show up at GPUG Summit consistently seem to grow their footprint each time, not to mention their level of comfort when executing a plan at an event. Some ISVs even send the same folks…they know what to expect.” – Bob McAdam, GPUG General Manager www.gpugsummit.com
- Schedule meetings ahead of time. At some conferences, the time flies by so fast that you don’t get working time with all the people you’re there to see. Try not to take, “I’ll stop by your booth” for an answer! Anyone who’s been around knows how that usually ends up.
- If there’s a trade show, be at your booth even if it’s not your scheduled “booth duty” time. Stepping away from a chaotic booth to hold a peaceful conversation is certainly a good thing, but when you’re done, head on back. You never know who might stop by while you’re away, leading to a missed opportunity to make a face-to-face connection.
- Get social. Jon Rivers of Marketing Monarchs has some great tips that even social media novices can follow:
The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Using Social Media at conferences.
- Be a social butterfly. Don’t congregate with your own team or other ISVs too much. As much as you may enjoy their company, you should focus on spending your time with the people you don’t have access to regularly. (Or if you really want to be hit over the head with it, “people who can help you earn more money”).
- Be present and visible. Sometimes there are no Expo hall hours and no sessions that are even remotely interesting or relevant to you going on. While it’s tempting to go back to your room and catch up on email, don’t do it. Take your laptop if you must, but sit in a common area. Be where the customers and partners are.
- Recap your experience. Here are some tips for writing conference recaps.
- Remember: It’s a sprint, not a marathon! Double up on your vitamins and caffeinate yourself because this is your time make connections and build relationships with people that will be way more meaningful than anything you can do on a conference call.
Need a little help? DAB Partners can represent our clients at conferences, or just help your team put a plan in place to follow these tips. Contact us to learn more.