Events and conferences can be notoriously overwhelming, am I right? Between keynote speeches, breakout sessions, networking meetups and booth outreach, it feels like you have to be everywhere at once. Earlier this month, my team and I were in Las Vegas for CompTIA’s ChannelCon 2019 for an eventful week of learning and networking and walked away with some new event strategies, and more importantly, new friends, contacts and business opportunities.
Here are some things to consider before, during, and after your next in-person event or conference that will help you foster new connections and grow existing business relationships.
There’s more to planning your trip than booking flights and hotel rooms. It’s important to prepare, in an intentional way, to truly optimize your time during the event. I suggest researching the event sponsors, speakers, and exhibitors and sending personalized messages to folks you’d like to connect with ahead of time. That way, they can put a face to your name and carve out time during the chaos to chat with you.
Following and nurturing attendees and sponsors on social media before the event will also help you get a pulse on what prospects are looking forward to, and will make you more recognizable once you’re face-to-face.
Your expo booth shouldn’t be your main focus. In fact, I often find interactions at booths to be overly “salesy” and very seldom result in new business opportunities. Instead, we’ve found that hosting some type of intimate networking meetup works much better. At ChannelCon for example, we hosted a cocktail hour with a small group of 10-15 people which gave us the chance to get to know everyone and for the guests to network with each other as well.
Nobody wants to feel like they’re being sold to. It’s important to focus each interaction you have on the solutions and business outcomes you offer, rather than the technology or product you sell. Prospects want to know exactly how you can help them overcome their current challenges. This is where all that research you did before the event comes in handy -- you’ll know exactly who you’re talking to and how your business can help before you even shake hands.
It’s 2019, people! Leveraging social media throughout the event is a great way to “join the conversation” and engage with fellow attendees in real time. Use the event hashtag or venue’s geotag in each post you share, and follow or connect with everyone you meet in person.
So, the event is over and everyone you spoke with also talked to a hundred different people. What makes you memorable? At the end of each day, I recommend sending a follow up email or LinkedIn message to the people you connected with thanking them for their time and offering to chat again once the event is over. A timely, non-salesy note and follow up can go a long way.