Marketing Must-Dos to Maximize Conference Value

From CES to SXSW, Davos to Disrupt, Adobe Summit to Web Summit MWC, conferences are still one of the most effective ways to grow your company. They offer exposure to best practices  and thought leadership, new prospects and leads, new partnerships, and often new friendships too.  

From a marketing perspective, how do you put your best foot forward, and plan an awesome conference that ensures you get maximum ROI from your participation? 

1. Pre-conference preparation 

In the pre-conference phase, thorough preparation is key to maximizing the benefits of attending. Good prep work involves researching the speakers, understanding the profile of attendees, and aligning your strategies accordingly. Setting clear, specific goals is crucial, whether they’re about networking, learning, or business development. “Grow my leads” isn’t a goal. “I want to have 50 qualified, strong, and excited leads after 2 days,” is

Pre-planning your agenda, including choosing sessions and scheduling meetings with key contacts early, ensures you make the most of your time. 

The obvious things to think about are booth design, business cards, dress code, accommodation, and transportation. On the digital side, there’s the landing page, calendar booking app, social media plan, and a pre-conference email plan.

Pre-conference, you should also ask yourself:

  • How will I collect leads? QR code? Conference-provided scanner? Good ol’ business card in the jar?
  • How am I drawing attention to myself?
  • What hook am I using to start conversations? 
  • How do I leave a lasting impression?
  • How do I ensure conversations turn into connections?
  • Is there a conference meeting app where I can start scheduling meetings well in advance?
  • Is there an email list available?
  • Do I want to meet any of the speakers?

2. Effective networking strategies

Who LOVES networking? We bet you didn’t raise your hand. Very few people do, but most of us have to do it. 

Effective networking at a conference is about prioritizing quality interactions over sheer quantity. Before the conference, use social media platforms to connect with fellow attendees, speakers, and organizers, setting the stage for in-person interactions. At the conference, have your elevator pitch ready but focus equally on listening and engaging meaningfully with others. Asking a truly interesting, thought-provoking question (PM us for some great ones) and showing genuine interest in the response can create more impactful connections. 

After the event, promptly follow up with your new contacts to solidify the relationships. Remind them of who you are, how you met, and why you want to stay in touch. 

3. Leveraging social media

Social media is a powerful tool for amplifying your conference experience. Live-posting using the conference hashtag, and sharing insights and pictures really enhances your visibility.

Platforms like LinkedIn are ideal for more detailed posts and continuing conversations post-conference. Engaging with other attendees’ and speakers’ posts can further increase your network and influence within the community, making you a visible and active participant both during and after the event. The LinkedIn algorithm loves this kind of engagement, so be sure to get on it!

One word of advice though? Authenticity. People see through the fake game. Be real, be human – be you.

4. Digging deeper and forming connections 

Conferences are treasure troves of knowledge, and staying abreast of new trends is a major benefit. That’s no secret.

Is it why you attend the conference? No. Can you take away some awesome things? Yes.

Do you want to spend all your time in the lectures? No. Are some of the most valuable conversations the ones around the food and drinks? 100% yes.  

What we’re saying is take part in what the conference has to offer, but do what works for you – you’re sure to meet people who think the same, and in turn, really build strong connections. 

Try to strike the balance.  

5. Post-conference engagement

Now here’s what it all comes down to. The end of the conference is just the beginning of the next, supercritical phase – post-conference engagement. How do you take what you learned, who you met, and the connections you made from the conference into the real world?

Writing a social media post, blog post, or article summarizing your key takeaways and learnings can provide value to your network and establish your thought leadership credentials. It also keeps you on the radar of other conference participants and keeps you top-of-mind. 

Continuing the conversation with new contacts and on social media platforms keeps the momentum going and solidifies the connections made during the conference. Ensure new contacts are immediately added to your mailing list (preferably as a new, separate audience), and keep them updated. 

As the saying goes, “Strike while the iron is hot”. Set up calls and meetings immediately with prospects and partners you met at the conference. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to rise to the top of their ever-filling inbox and you risk them forgetting about you.

Be persistent and patient, nurture, and invest in real relationships for the long run. 

It’s showtime 

If you approach conferences systematically and thoroughly, you’ll be able to learn from each one you attend and apply the lessons to future events. 

Keep doing the basics right: social media, blogs, newsletters, and so on – with sincerity and authenticity – and great things are sure to follow. 

Stay hydrated, and good luck!

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