10 Hacks to Growing Your Professional Business at Conferences
If you’re looking to discover the latest industry trends or rub elbows with the leading thought leaders in your industry, there’s no better option than attending a conference. The problem with attending a conference as a business owner is that they don’t always benefit your bottom line. And, that can be an issue when you just dished out thousands of dollars to attend a conference.
If you follow these 10 tips though, you’ll actually be able to grow your business the next time you attend an industry conference, event, or trade show.
1. Pick Your Conferences Wisely
There a lot of conferences to chose from — which can be both a good thing and a bad thing if you’re on a tight budget. For example, you may love to attend a conference in New York City, but is it going to be a conference where you’re just mingling with colleagues and learning some new information or is it a conference where you you’re going to meet face-to-face with potential clients? If it’s the first type of conference, it may not be worth it for you to attend because of the travel expenses.
That’s not saying that the industry events where you walk away with some new information isn’t valuable — there’s even a possibility that clients will be present here as well. It’s just that those types of conferences should not be a priority if you’re goal is to grow your business. If that’s the case, you may want to select the event where you have a chance to attract customers.
2. Do Your Homework
After narrowing down your prefered conferences, you’re still going to have to conduct some research regarding who is going to be attending the conference. Are there any speakers or influencers attending the event that you believe could benefit your business. Are there any businesses there that you could strike a partnership with? If so, you should reach out to them prior to the event through email. Twitter, or LinkedIn. After making your introduction, you can inform them that you’ll be at the conference and would like to spend a couple of minutes with.
You can even ask the conference if they’ll provide a list of attendees. If not, search social media — pay attention to hashtags or LinkedIn groups regarding the event — for possible attendees. If you spot potential customers who are attending the conference, introduce yourself and see if you can meet with them in person.
Bonus Tip: Most events use mobile apps like WooChat to help you network at conferences. You can use the app to identify the people you want to meet and then make that important face-to-face connection.
3. Practice Your Pitch
Another benefit of knowing who want to network with at a conference is that you’ll be able to prepare a sales pitch that is going to best suit their needs. In other words, how is your product or service going to benefit them?
Even if you don’t have a specific individual in mind, you still need to practice your pitch — even if you know your business like the the back of your hand. Remember, you’re only going to have a limited amount of time to introduce yourself and hook the potential client. Make sure that you pitch is flawless and that you’re prepared to quickly explain your business and answer any questions that the customer may throw at you.
When you do make your pitch, you also need to keep in mind that it should be a conversation. Don’t just hard sell your business without listening to what the customer has to say. You want the potential customer to do most of the talking so that they can decide for themselves if your business is right for them.
4. Dress to Impress
You’ve probably heard this a million times, but do you think that you’re going to be able to be taken seriously as a professional if you attend an event wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers? If you look the part, in this case as a professional, you’re increasing the chances of improving your ROI.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t add a little bit of your own style to your attire. You could have a brightly colored tie that makes you stand out a bit. Even if the potential client doesn’t remember your name at first, they could very well remember you as the guy in the bright, orange tie.
5. Don’t Forget to Mingle
Networking at a conference can get a little overwhelming. It can even be challenge to drag yourself to a post-conference event because you’ve been on your feet all day. The thing, you’ve already done most of the leg work by reaching out to individuals and working on your sales pitch, so you can relax a bit.
When it’s time to socialize, you must always remember that your main goal is to make meaningful relationships. Don’t pitch your business too thick. Collect business cards instead of just handing them out. And, most importantly, listen and ask questions.
A couple of other useful tactics would be to bring along another team member so that you can divide and conquer. Also, pay attention to how people are engaging each other or if they’re in groups larger than three. It may be difficult to make your way into their conversation.
Bonus Tip: Don’t wait until an actual networking event to mingle during a conference. Some of the most promising, organic, and meaningful conversations that I’ve had have taken place during breaks. You can use any free moments during a conference to strike up a conversation with a potential customer.
6. Show Up Prepared
When I talk about being prepared I’m not just referring to knowing the attendees you want to meet and having a perfect pitch. Being prepared means that your online profiles/websites are up-to-date, all marketing materials in-place, you have more than enough business cards, and that all of your gear is charged.
For example, when it comes to your marketing materials, make sure that they contain your logo and the they have a clean and simple design. Additionally, use subheads as scanning points, avoid too much print, and use visual aids like charts and graphs.
As for your business cards, keep in mind that they are an extension of you and your brand. For most professionals, that means keeping your cards as minimal as possible and containing relevant contact information. However, you can get creative with your business card if it matches your brand. Vistaprint is a great place to obtain your business cards.
And, don’t forget to download a handy business card scanner app onto your phone. As you collect business cards, you can scan them onto your device without having manually enter the information.
7. Handout Unforgettable Swag
How many conferences have you attended where there’s a business handing materials like pens or keychains? Do you know where that pen currently is? It’s probably somewhere at the bottom of your desk. And, that means you’ve most likely forgotten all about that company.
If you’re going to hand out some swag at a conference then make sure that they’re memorable and something that your clients will enjoy. HubSpot suggests that you give away items like unique t-shirts, umbrellas, reusable water bottle, phone chargers, and seasonable items like a beach towel or flip flops in the warmer months.
8. Get Involved Outside of the Conference
Don’t wait until the conference to make your presence known. Get involved with the organization or group behind the event outside of the actual conference. For example, if the conference is hosted by a leading publisher in your industry, see if you can become a contributor to their blog or even simply become a member of their online community. Does the organization need volunteers, speakers, or offer mentorship programs?
Finding a way to get involved with the organization hosting the conference year-around is a surefire way to raise your brand awareness, establish your authority, and get you in front of the potential customers attending the event before they even register.
9. Fill Your Calendar
Did you notice an influencer or customer attending the event that interests you? Why speak with them just at the conference? Since you’re both in town for the same event, plan a meeting in advance so that you can talk shop without getting distracted from the all of the other festivities going on around you at the conference.
10. Have Your A-Team In Place
To help you survive a conference, you need to have an awesome team backing you up. It’s not just the trusted people holding down the fort while you’re gone. For example, think about all of those business cards you’ve been receiving. Have a specific team member in charge of uploading this information from all of your potential clients into your project management system so that you can immediately get to work on following up with them. Keeping that dialogue open is one of the best ways to convert that lead into a sale.
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