Conference Best Practices For Small Business Owners
Posted on March 23rd, 2023 to Uncategorized
Conference best practices have been a hot topic lately among my clients, as many are returning to in-person events. Even as an introvert, I’m excited about getting back to in-person meet-ups and conferences — I miss the deeper connection that can be made by being in the same room.
That said, I want my clients to be smart about where and how they show up in person.
Conferences can be a significant investment of resources, and the pressure to come back with leads, effective referral relationships, and an increased audience can be overwhelming.
So, how do you make the most of the conferences and events you attend for business?
How do you come home feeling energized, optimistic and confident instead of drained and second-guessing yourself for attending?
In this blog post, I’ll address three best practices to make the most out of your precious business and personal resources at these business-building and networking opportunities.
Conference Best Practices #1: Preparation is key
Especially in a challenging economy, my clients want to get the most out of every investment of time and money – and I’ve noticed a particularly high expectation of ROI from conferences.
To get the most return on your investment, don’t wait until you get to the conference to start making progress. A savvy conference-goer will start taking action weeks before the actual event.
- Apply to be a speaker or moderator so attendees will see you as an expert in your field.
- Research everyone who will be there (attendees, speakers, vendors, sponsors), and make a list of who you want to meet — gamify your experience by seeing how many you can meet on site.
- Or, better yet, reach out to book meetings ahead of time or think about hosting a gathering during the conference to engage a larger number of leads at once.
- Find out which of your past and current clients will be in attendance and make a plan to connect with them live — this is a great way to deepen your existing relationships with them (plus, you can get intros to the folks they know at the conference).
- Plan which sessions to attend, consider your goals and make intentional choices to support your desired outcomes.
Key takeaway: Set specific goals for each event and create a plan to achieve them. Make sure that you have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish and how you will measure your success.
Conference Best Practices #2: Make the most of informal moments
Whether you’re a social butterfly or an introvert like me, conferences can significantly drain your energy.
While it can be tempting to attend the sessions during the day and hide away with room service or catch up on work at night, so much magic happens in the time before, in between, and after conference programming.
That’s why I recommend you stay at the conference hotel to give you more time to connect with others. Serendipity can happen in the elevator!
Some of the best connections are made during downtime, so embrace the long lines for coffee and the restroom and use the time to network and make friends.
Signal to others that you’re open to making connections by leaving your phone in your bag and be mindful not to spend all your time with friends and colleagues.
But, that said, you don’t have to be everywhere all the time! Be mindful of your need for self-care in the time leading up to, during, and following conferences — schedule time on your calendar to rest so you don’t burn out. Honor your limits with caffeine and alcohol, and get the sleep you need.
Key takeaway: Embrace informal moments for networking while being mindful of self-care, scheduling time to rest and honoring personal limits.
Conference Best Practices #3: Meaningful Follow-Up
You invested your time, energy and money. Maybe you even gave a speech or moderated a panel, and then what?
The follow-up is where most of my clients fall short.
Instead of following up meaningfully and strategically, they send impersonal emails or LinkedIn connection requests en masse — neither of which is likely to get much traction.
Here are some ideas to leave a memorable impression and keep the lines of communication open:
- While at the event, take notes that will allow you to follow up with more impact.
- Send genuine “thank you” notes, referencing something they said or did that authentically made an impression on you — bonus points if you can tell them how you’ve already put their wisdom to good use.
- Whenever possible, add value for them by making introductions or sharing opportunities or items of interest.
- Put the pieces in place to nurture leads you meet at the conference by creating and implementing a Meet-Invite-Sell funnel for all your leads.
Don’t know what a Meet-Invite-Sell funnel is? You might be greatly hurting your chances of getting your next big client in the pipeline.
I work with my clients to create a consistent ‘Invite’ to nurture all their leads to a sales conversation with more speed and ease.
Common Invite strategies include a free monthly roundtable discussion or similar small-scale opportunities to convene peers to learn from each other.
Personalization and attention to detail are invaluable in making promising connections, as is a compelling and easy follow-up offer to stay connected.
Key takeaway: Follow-up is crucial after attending conferences, and sending a generic email or connection request is ineffective. Sending detailed thank you notes, adding value, and having a plan to nurture leads can leave a memorable impression and keep the lines of communication open.
Attending A Conference Soon? You Have Your Game Plan
Conferences, and events can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned and social business owner.
Before I learned the tips and tricks to get the most out of generating business via events and conferences, I spent years feeling pressure to bring back leads and deals to my bosses.
If you have a specific question about generating leads at conferences, or any other facet of B2B sales, I invite you to attend the next Sales Roundtable. Each and every month, I gather a group of business owners to tackle their top sales questions and challenges, and I’d love to see you there. Click here to register.