Events are a great way to make business connections, generate quality leads, and learn more about an industry. However, traveling to, attending, and exhibiting at events can be an expensive investment if there isn’t any ROI to back it up. At Versature we love going out into the community and attending events. Here’s the 4 things we do to maximize our time at events, whether we’ve got a booth, are speaking, or an attendee.
1: Be Prepared
Your involvement at an event doesn’t start when you enter the hotel or convention centre. Your team should be researching the event before you go (and even before you buy tickets or a booth!). You can optimize your event time by researching who you should connect with when you are on site and even connect with them in advance to arrange a meeting. Read through the lists of exhibitors found on the event’s website (they often have a page dedicated to speakers and companies exhibiting), as well as searching through social media platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn for mentions of the event or the event’s hashtag. Even simply searching for the event in Google can yield results of companies’ websites where they list what community events they’ll be at in the future.
What demographic of people is the event catered to?
The atmosphere of the event will be dramatically different based on the demographic of people the event is designed for, and your team should prepare differently for each one. If your team is exhibiting at the event, knowing whether the crowd will be more technologically inclined, more C-suite based, or any other differentiator will be key in who you send to the event from your team, and what you equip them with. If your team is just attending the event, knowing the demographic of the event will help you choose the best team members to attend on your company’s behalf.
Who is attending that you already have a relationship with?
Events are a great opportunity to connect or reconnect with partners, customers, and prospects. Having dinner or a drink with a business connection can help to build relationships and trust, and is overall just a great time to get to know each other. For partners, events can be a time to come together and pool resources to lower the cost of a booth, or create unique ways of engaging with both customer bases.
Who is presenting or exhibiting at the event?
Is there an opportunity to connect with key people or companies before or after the event for some quality one-on-one time? Especially when events are in a different city, planning additional meetings around the event schedule can maximize your representatives’ travel time and make use of the networking atmosphere already instilled by the event.
What are you going to bring to the table (literally!)?
Of course, your only goal when attending an event isn’t to give away as much swag as possible, but having some interesting swag items to give away or holding a draw for a big ticket item can give event attendees the extra push they need to stop by your booth.
2: Count New Friends, Not Sales Pitches
When you’re attending an event, one of your most valuable assets is the other vendors. Act as business wingmen for each other to help generate leads for like-minded organizations. Making connections with other vendors early on in the conference can help you find the right potential customers.
“Oh, you’re also looking for internet service? Well I know that Amazeballs Inc. offers great internet service, they’re at booth 112.”
Now of course this needs to happen organically in conversation, but it brings me to my next point within this tip. Everyone goes to events expecting to be sold to, but the best connections can happen when you’re not talking shop and instead are taking a vested interest in those coming by your booth. What’s something you can connect over that’s not directly related to what you’re trying to sell? The connections will be more genuine and less forced this way, which will be easier both for your representatives and the event attendees.
Making friends with the other exhibitors can also help your business. If this isn’t your core industry, you might discover a new industry need that you didn’t know about previously. And since you’ve already made friends with all the other vendors and have built a rapport with them, you can send them information about your new industry-specific offer should your products or services go well together, or even develop a partnership with those other businesses. What better way to get footing in an industry than using contacts you made at an event?
3: Pick the Right People
Your ROI from an event is partially dependent on the people who are representing you at the event. So it only makes sense that you choose people who are personable and high-energy.
When I’m attending events just as an attendee, I gravitate towards the booths with the energetic people who are engaged in conversation, not the ones with people behind their table on their cell phones ignoring potential customers.
At the same time though, no one wants to be sold to, so make sure that whoever is exhibiting at the events is high energy, knowledgeable, but not overly sales-y. Attending events is about making connections – they can be turned into leads and nurtured after the event. But those people won’t want to talk to you if you were overly sales-y at the event.
It’s more important to make connections that are quality rather than have a large quantity. People who you’ve spent the time to get to know their business solution and have made a memorable connection at an event are more likely to turn into successful leads than 10 people who you scanned quickly as they went by but barely spoke to. Quality over quantity ever single time.
4: Follow Up!
I don’t know how many times I’ve been to an event and someone’s told me they would send me more information, or send me so-and-so’s contact information, and I’ve never heard from them again. Give your new contacts a couple days to settle from the excitement of the event, then follow up with a quick email or call reminding them of what you talked about at the event. It’s great to “talk the talk” at the event, but make sure you “walk the walk” after the event and keep the connections that you’ve made strong.