Networking and industry events are essential to all companies, but how to make sure your company gets a good return on investment and draws the right visitors?
Conferences, networking events, industry gatherings, they’re all part of your company strategy. However, these events generally come with a price tag and require you to invest time and money. To make sure your company gets an adequate return on investment, here’s a quick checklist to help you on your way:
1. Select the right events for your company
Before you pick out any events and conferences you’d like to attend, be clear on what your company goals are. You probably won’t select the same event if you’re aiming to increase your number of prospects than if your goal is to get maximum media coverage or extra networking opportunities. Avoid picking events simply because they’re well-known: sometimes smaller gatherings can be just as efficient. Before you dive in, always check on the other companies that will be represented and on the speakers that will be in the spotlight to make sure you draw the right audience to achieve your goals.
2. Study the event's reach and coverage
Once you’ve selected the events that are likely to be a good fit, you can still narrow things down by going over the conference details. How many people/companies are expected to attend and exhibit? What does the organization has to offer to exhibitors? Do they have a marketing strategy to promote the event? How is the event covered and who are their media partners? Is there a press kit? Do you get mentioned in their newsletter? How many people will be getting that newsletter ? Is your logo displayed on their website? Does your website get linked to ?
3. Don't just sign up, negotiate everything you can
"If your company boasts an original concept or an innovative approach - or is just very good at what it does - don't just accept the price they offer you."
Conferences make their money by selling reach and visibility. The higher their attendance, the longer they’ll exist. This is why they generally favour companies with a new outlook on the industry. Some events can be surprisingly flexible when it comes to drawing in innovative companies and start-ups. Here at Teamleader, we’ve even managed to cut down the initial price by half on one occasion. If your company has something interesting to offer, don’t accept the price as it is right away, you may want to negotiate:
- press mentions,
- a booth that's at least 5m²,
- a good spot (very important),
- your presence featured on the event's website,
- your logo on their website, with a link to your website,
- the number of times you're mentioned in the newsletter,
- a monitor screen,
- support for the duration of the conference.
4. Try to get a speaker slot
To increase your visibility, try to negotiate a speaking slot with the conference organizer or the agency in charge. If that doesn’t work, maybe they’ll let you set up a workshop, so prepare a topic that’s concrete, useful, clear and entertaining in relation to your product. When speaking, try to find a way to wow your audience right from the start and always adapt your pitch to the people you’re talking to (leads, investors, journalists, so they remain interested.
5. Prepare your attendance well in advance
Organize accommodation and travel logistics well in advance to get better rates. At the event, you’ll need flyers, brochures, business cards and merchandising items to hand out to anyone within reach. Your booth will also need banners, roll-ups, displays… All of these need to be designed, ordered, printed and delivered, so be sure to get organized as early as possible.
It may also prove useful to have the following:
- a screen with a presentation that runs on loop to keep waiting visitors interested,
- a demo of your product,
- statistics on product efficiency,
- a special offer for the event, with a dedicated landing page on your website,
- any other things and tools that are always needed hwen you set it up: extension cables, scissors, duct tape, etc.
6. Don't skip on pre-event marketing
Don’t forget to start marketing your presence well before the event. You may want to:
- publish and promote your presence via a company newsletter or through your company’s social networks so your customers and prospects can decide to meet you there,
- ask your staff to check whether their LinkedIn profiles are up to date and make sure their profile pictures actually look like them in real life. This will not only make it easier for conference visitors to find and identify them during the event but it will also help them remember your team afterwards. Your conference team is likely to meet people who’ll want to connect on LinkedIn. The last thing you want, is to discourage them by having them pose in their scariest Halloween costume.
At the event, take some nice pictures of your crowded booth, your speaker in front of a large audience, your team in action at a workshop, and any other conference highlights you come across. Depending on your team and their enthusiasm, you may or may not want to post the after-party pics, though. Just make sure everything looks fantastic before you publish it all on your company’s LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts. This will help illustrate your company spirit and maybe even earn you a couple of extra visits the next day.
7. Pick and prep your team with care
"Mix and match your conference team carefully so that your area of expertise is adequately covered. Even if only 2 people attend, make sure that at least one of them is capable of answering highly technical questions."
Avoid sending only salespeople to the event. Conferences are a good all-in-one opportunity to get your teambuilding going and have different employees work on the same project. Mix and match your conference team carefully so that your area of expertise is adequately covered. Even if only 2 people attend, make sure that at least one of them is capable of answering highly technical questions. Of course, everyone in the conference team will need to know how to give a proper demo and how to answer the most common questions, so a playbook might come in handy.
Remember that some conference organizers have a specific sense of humour and enjoy last-minute surprises: there’s always that one detail you hadn’t quite seen coming. To keep your team’s stress levels to a minimum, make sure everyone knows exactly how to get to the event and to your booth and where they’re supposed to be at what time.
8. Try to set up meetings beforehand
If you aim to have your booth bustling with visitors, set up some meetings with customers and prospects in advance. Just remember that most events have a high no-show rate, that your guests are likely to become distracted along the way and that they won’t always show up when you expect them to.
9. Combine your stay with other events or meetings
While you’re in a distant location anyway, you may as well make the most of your time there. If you have other customers or prospects in the area, try to schedule meetings with them before or after the conference. This way you get to enjoy some fresh air while saving yourself an extra trip.
10. ALWAYS take the contact details of everyone you talk to
Last but not least: contacts and leads are generally what industry events are about. ALWAYS:
- ask for the business card and/or take down the contact information of everyone you meet, even at the after-parties,
- download the conference-native app to facilitate networking,
- register all your leads as soon as you can: after the conference you probably won't remember who's who, what they wanted or what it was you talked about,
- follow up maximum 3 days after the event and try to include details of your conversation to make the exchange as personal as possible.
We know, lead management can be hard work and often takes up way too much valuable time after a conference. Here’s when a tool like Teamleader comes in handy. We help you organize all your leads and contacts in an extremely easy-to-use CRM that helps you follow up quickly. To make it even better, we’ve integrated a smart business card scanner to upload business card data automatically and, yes we also have a LinkedIn plugin! Feel free to download our e-book on smart lead management to learn more.
For more information, be sure to read our ebook on smarter lead management- or just contact us!