I recently attended the B2B Content-2-Conversion conference in Scottsdale, AZ earlier this week and for reasons I will not expand upon, I was inspired to identify some key do’s and don’ts when attending conferences/tradeshows. Oh, and the b2bc2c event was GREAT – it was the perfect event for a great group of marketers trying to grow their networks and grow their business. Hello, marketing conferences 2015!
Here are my top 8:
Don’t Limit Networking to your Friends; Meet New Folks
Not everyone is a sales person and can walk up to a plain stranger and start an engaging conversation. As a marketer, I love to reach hundreds of thousands of people with my messaging, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I like to do that in person. However, none of that matters at a conference; step outside of your comfort zone and network with people you don’t know. They may be in the same boat! You are wasting your time and your company’s money when you stay glued to your colleague’s side. Venture out and meet new people, grow your network and have fun!
Do Your Research; Network BEFORE the Event
Some of these conferences, take Dreamforce for example, have over 100,000 attendees – I don’t need to tell you that there is no possible way you will be able to meet them all. Do your research and identify the top 50-100 companies/contacts that you want to connect with. Do everything you can to connect with them all and everyone else you meet is icing on the cake. Find the best candidates (potential business or potential mentorship), connect with them before the event and it will be much easier to start the conversation at the event. Find blogs they’ve written or content that they’ve posted and share it with your network, find out more about them, and engage with them on social media. Events are overwhelming and can be not just information overload, but people overload too. Find the right folks, connect with them, and then when the event starts you’ll have a warm conversation waiting for you.
Don’t ask questions just to ask questions
There are always a few folks in the bunch that raise their hand in a session and as a question that was either answered in the presentation itself, or can easily be googled. Of course you draw attention to yourself by raising your hand in front of 100+ attendees, but it is certainly not good attention when you don’t ask an intriguing and engaging question. Questions at trade show sessions should challenge the speaker to discuss something not explicitly expanded upon in the presentation. Asking questions shouldn’t be just for yourself, there are likely others who either had the same question or needed a little external inquisition to see things in perspective or in a different light.
Don’t Go to a Session Just to Go; Avoid Burnouts
There are FAR more sessions than you have the mental bandwidth to attend. Again, do your research before the event and identify the sessions that are most applicable to you and your organization. This bullet goes hand in hand with the daily recaps; its not a question of if you will get burnt out, but when you will get burnt out. There are vendors to talk to, thought leaders to network with, customers to catch up with, prospects to talk to, and on top of all that there are a multitude of session options which you can attend. There will be a lot on your plate so be smart and only attend sessions that are relevant to you and ones from which you can actually learn something new. For example, if you’re a master of social media and your company’s results have been positive, don’t go to a social media session.
This may seem silly and you may skip right over this bullet, but PLEASE for the love of all things networking, BRING ENOUGH BUSINESS CARDS. Whatever quantity you feel is a comfortable amount, add 100 cards to it. It is unprofessional to not have cards and you don’t have to completely forget to bring business cards to not have any, you can easily run out at a large event. You can always bring the extra cards back to the office when the event is over. There’s more to bringing your cards than just being professional; I actually brought so many cards to the #C2C15 event they were coming out of my ears and I must have accidentally dropped one in the elevator…it just so happened to be picked up by a CEO of a company I am prospecting….and it sparked a great conversation J
It doesn’t matter how many times someone is reminded to be careful about drinking at a conference, you can never hear it enough. So, be careful about over drinking at conferences. It is completely understood that everyone is going to drink, you might even seem silly not to drink, but do you and your organization a favor and have a glass of water in between drinks. Loosening up is great, getting plastered and embarrassing yourself and your company is not so great.
After day one most attendees are probably thinking, “Wow! I learned so much today and can’t wait to apply it when I get back to work!” …After day two there’s a very strong chance you are overwhelmed with information and that different presentations are now mixing together and you don’t know who presented what or what the take away was. We all know these events are pricey so take advantage of the sessions with smart tactics like daily recaps or thorough note taking, that way you can look back on it when you get back to the office and apply or implement some of the things you learned. Your CEO will thank you!
Identify your own business objectives before the event
If you haven’t spoken to your CEO or manager, you absolutely need to ask these vital questions before you leave to go to the event.
- What is the overarching goal?
- What are your expectations from the event?
- What are your expectations of me?
There are a plethora of B2B conference tips, but the above tips are the most important. Happy Conference Season!