MORE THAN AN ATTENDEE
People attend conferences every day throughout the world. In fact, it is estimated that over 1.5 billion people attend business events worldwide every year. With conferences ranging from free to thousands of dollars per attendee, not including the cost of airfare or travel, conferences can cost a lot of money. With so much money involved, conferences are an area branders need to take very seriously.
One area that branders often take for granted is when it comes to being an attendee. For many attendees, there is a feeling of disconnection when they attend a conference. Many in larger corporations feel that they are going on a small “mini vacation.” On the entrepreneurs’ side, they often feel they are spending a significant portion of their yearly budget, which can be close to reality for many.
When it comes to attending conferences, there are some significant areas that can improve your experience as well as improve your brand. Changing your mind towards conferences takes planning and an understanding of the conference’s importance. Here are some ways to improve your conference’s impact on your brand while making your brand stronger.
Get Ready for the Conference
Plan.This might seem to be obvious option, but you would be surprised how many people attend a conference just expecting to learn. While learning is important, you can learn at home. What you need to do is plan and establish goals for attending. Perhaps your goal is to make new connections. Maybe your goal is to discover a new vendor that can help your brand grow; many conferences attract vendors related specifically to what they are focusing on at the conference.
Question.Before you go to a conference, explore the topic matter and determine a list of questions that you feel will best support your brand. Often some speakers will incorporate a question and answer session in their presentation. If they do, you’ll be prepared to ask some questions. Just make sure that your question wasn’t answered during the presentation before you ask it later. Some presenters or speakers will even be willing to answer questions after a session is over.
Network.On top of finding vendors, find people and make connections. During breaks and lunches seek out to meet a certain number of people. Take your business cards and turn it into a game, set the goal to hand out a predetermined number of cards, and hopefully get the same number of cards in return. Commit to finding new people that you can bring into your brand’s pool of resources. If you can network with the presenters, do it. The presenters are often chosen by conference organizers as being industry leaders. If you play your cards right you might be able to strike up a good relationship with them.
Follow-up. After networking and collecting the contacts you planned to get, be sure you have a follow-up for each one. When you get back from your conference take out your newly acquired cards and follow-up in a manner correlated with your discussion. Did you say you’ll call? Then call. Did you mention that you’ll e-mail her? Then shoot her an e-mail. In all methods of communicating, recap your conversation, show them that you you’re listening to the conversation.
Prep.Well before you travel to your conference you should be able to answer the most common conference questions aside from ‘what’s your name?’ This includes questions such as ‘why did you come,’ ‘where are you from,’ and ‘what do you do?’ Have quick and succinct answers; don’t stumble over the information you share.
Prep the return.As you prep your stock answers, think about the questions you’re going to ask. Instead of asking the standard questions yourself, elevate your questions and ask something more probing. When someone gets asked the same questions a dozen times at a conference they start to become numb, which leads to them being numb to your conversation. By asking more effective questions it gets the person to engage the creative part of the brain to formulate a new response.
Dress appropriately. Your appearance at a conference is the first interaction any of the attendees will have with your brand. You’ll always want to look professional with each interaction you have. Make sure that your attire is in line with your brand. If your conference is in southern California don’t wear clothes that make it look like you’re heading out to the beach immediately following the last session of the day.
Maximize.It is not uncommon for conferences to have additional events or activities. Sometimes these events cost more money, but if you’re trying to maximize your conference experience and get the most impact, look at these add-ons and see if they will benefit being added in to your plan.
Focus.When you’re at a conference, remember that you paid to be there. Spending time during any sessions answering texts, phone calls, or posting on social media—even checking your social media accounts—takes you out of the right frame of mind. To be focused, be sure you’re not falling asleep during a presentation. When you doze off you never know what golden nugget will be shared while you’re catching Zs.
Be friendly. Conferences are often full of people who have traveled long distances. This means they are often by themselves and in a new area alone. By being friendly and genuine you’ll help ensure that you stand out from everyone else a person might meet. If you’re hoping to network with these people (which we’ve established you need to) you’ll be more memorable.
Check your ego.Your title, position, or years in your industry does not ensure people will treat you better. If you’re a CEO and you’re attending a conference, there are probably dozens of other CEO’s as well. Don’t expect that your title will get you any special treatment. If you remove this thinking or expectation, then you’ll find that you’ll lessen your chances of being disappointed or frustrated.
Retain. Before you attend the conference ensure you know what is allowed for taking notes. Some conferences don’t want their attendees worrying about taking notes. Often these conferences will allow you access to the material afterward, typically in the form of PDFs of the speaker’s presentation. This, however, does not give you the meat of the presentation, as it’s usually just the talking points. If you’re allowed to record the audio, great. Each night of the conference, run through your notes and add to them while you’re in the proper frame of mind.
Promote yourself.Chances are that few people at any of the conferences you attend will know who you are. Set the goal to change this. If you hear that a conference your hoping to attend is looking for panelists or speakers, take the initiative to reach out to the conference organizers and you may be surprised to find that your efforts will help you get a speaking opportunity. Suddenly those network connections will come searching you out at the conference.
Return. When the conference comes to a close, go through your goals, notes, and do a post-mortem on what you got from the conference. Do this to determine if the conference was a good fit for you and your brand. If you had a wonderful experience and all your goals were met, think about attending the next conference. It’s not uncommon for conferences to offer extremely attractive pricing for next year’s conference to this year’s attendees. These prices are usually significantly cheaper than any other pricing throughout the year. You’re also helping the conference gauge whether the conference was a success or if they’ll even offer it the next year.
As you get ready to attend your next conference follow these items to see how your experience will improve. By improving your conference experience you’ll also discover that you’ll retain and gain more help for your brand. These improvements will help you discover a great return on your investment.
Ideas To Make Your Brand Better Now:
- Look for one or two conferences that will help you and your brand in the next 12 months
- Register and commit to at least one of the conferences you found
- Begin planning how to make the best return for your investment