The 101 On Attending Conferences
There is more to attending a conference than showing up. What can be done before or after a conference that can further develop or improve the experience?
- Expected outcomes: Are you looking for new business, interested in catching up with a former colleague, learning about a new topic? Before attending a conference develop a plan with Marketing, Business Development (BD), and any other attendees. If you are sponsoring the conference, determine the goal and expected outcome.
- Who is attending from your company: Business Development team members are often comfortable at events and can wing it but what about if you have others attending who aren’t as comfortable? Help attendees develop talking points. Make sure their elevator speech is prepared and specific for the audience attending the conference. Sometimes role playing, especially with staff who don’t regularly attend conferences can be helpful to prepare them for casual conversation.
- Collateral, handouts + giveaways: If you are sponsoring an event and have an exhibit table start thinking about items you would like to have for attendees far enough in advance that you have time to develop new material if needed, freshen up brochures, or order give-away items. Try to keep items small. A great way to share more information about a company is through a handout with a call to action that brings them to your website or requires signing up for mailing lists. Adding to a mailing list creates a new avenue for relaying the story about your company that you hope to share.
- Social media strategy: Begin by letting people know you will be in attendance and start a conversation asking if others in your network will be attending. Starting a conversation instead of just stating your plans allows social media to spread the word for you.
- Bring business cards. This is the simplest item to remember and one of the most important. You need to enable people to be able to reach out to you after the in person conversation has ended. If you don’t pass along your contact information, you could be over looked when business opportunities arise in the future.
- Use a checklist: When sponsoring an event develop a checklist of the items you NEED to have. This list might include extension cords, computer charging cord, laptop, lighting, banners, table cloth, giveaways, booth location information and don’t forget to download necessary materials in case you can’t access wi-fi.
- Lastly, remember to follow up: Sort out the business cards you’ve collceted and the connections you made. Whether the connection is a new LinkedIn request or a direct email, take the time to let the person you met know you haven’t forgotten about them. Even more helpful is reminding them about something specific you discussed to jog their memory.
Once you’ve mastered these tips, the next step is determining which events are best suited for you. In the AEC industry, there are many organizations, conferences, and networking groups to choose from. Determine what’s right for you and your organization. Some of our favorites are NAIOP where interesting speakers are guaranteed, ULI where specialists enlighten and offer great insight, SCUP where colleges and universities share lessons learned and goals for the future and SMPS where marketers, designers, and BD can gather and share what they’ve learned.