As you’re preparing for the start of event season, you might be asking yourself, “why do in-person events even matter in today’s digital world?”
In-person events offer the opportunity for you to meet face-to-face with clients, prospects and partners which can enhance your rapport and streamline your interactions. A conversation that can take weeks of back and forth emails can be accomplished in five minutes in person.
Plus, meeting someone in person helps establish trust and credibility. Instead of just being a voice on the phone or a name in an email signature, you become someone they personally know.
With that in mind, you shouldn’t be questioning whether or not you should attend in-person events — in-person events are an essential component of any effective demand generation strategy — instead, you should be asking how you can make the most of the in-person events you go to.
Whether you’re attending a conference, trade show, networking event or hosting a booth or session at one of those events, you don’t want to be caught unprepared.
Here are 10 things you need to do to maximize the benefits you gain from going to an industry event.
1. Establish Goals
You shouldn’t put any money into any event unless you have a clear understanding of what you would like to get out of it. Whether that’s generating leads, meeting partners, expanding your professional network or educating yourself on industry developments, making sure you nail down exactly what you want to get out of an event will help prevent you from getting overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle.
Set goals for yourself and make sure you tie those goals back to your personal growth and, if you’re attending an event on behalf of a company, your company’s revenue.
If your main goal is lead generation, know how many customers you want to generate from the event. If you’re recruiting, set a goal for how many candidates you want to identify. If you’re networking, set personal goals for how much you want to expand your network.
2. Set Your Agenda
At in-person events, there’s always something going on, and if you don’t have a set agenda to stick to, it’s really easy to waste time.
You should identify a healthy mix of activities you want to do based on your goals. Don’t just plan to spend your entire day going from session to session or meeting to meeting, also allocate some time to network. Additionally, you should be strategic about how long you spend doing each activity. Instead of attending a networking happy hour for three hours, consider only going for an hour and attending a relevant breakout session or panel where you can still network with attendees but also learn something new.
Look at the event’s agenda in advance and map out the locations of the activities you want to do. Then build out your schedule and put it in your calendar. When doing this, give yourself downtime. Events can be exhausting, and you don’t want to burn out on the first day. It’s OK to take a break to eat lunch or check work emails.
3. Prepare Team Members for Your Absence
Prior to leaving for an event, give team members and clients a heads up that you’ll be gone and set expectations for how responsive you’ll be. Make sure you designate an alternate point of contact for any emergencies that pop up and provide co-workers with the information they need to cover your tasks.
You should also set up out-of-office messages for your phone and email indicating that you’re at an event and will be slow to respond until you return.
4. Leverage Your Social Networks Beforehand
You don’t want to miss out on meeting someone important because you didn’t know they were attending the event.
Use your social networks to let people know you’ll be attending an event and try to arrange some meetups in advance. Do everything you can to give yourself visibility and let people know you’d be willing to grab lunch, book a meeting or attend a session together.
You can also research the attendee list, sponsors and presenters and reach out in advance to relevant people based on your goals for the event.
5. Document the Event and Use Relevant Hashtags
Posting on social media about the event while you’re there using relevant hashtags is a great way to connect with other attendees. When you post on LinkedIn and Twitter, make sure you tag the event and companies for the most visibility and engage with other people’s posts to engage with people you might not otherwise have had to opportunity to.
Plus, posting about the sessions you’re going to or the activities you’re doing at industry events helps establish your credibility as a professional in that industry.
Finally, don’t be afraid to tag people. When speakers give out their social info at the end of sessions, they’re not just being polite — they genuinely want you to connect with them. If you like a keynote or have a follow-up question, tweet at the speaker who presented and let them know.
6. Develop Talk Tracks
If you’re an introvert or struggle to have conversations off the cuff, in-person events can be daunting.
One way to work through apprehension is to come up with talk tracks to help you network with people.
Small talk at industry events is different than small talk anywhere else because everyone has a shared background and the “small talk” is just talking about work or industry topics. Having a couple of questions prepared about the event or industry trends can be a great way to start a conversation without having to worry too much about what to say.
7. Carry Business Cards
Even though most communications are digital nowadays, it’s a lot easier to receive a business card then look someone up on LinkedIn or copy down their email address in the moment. So, having physical business cards to pass out is important
Your business card should clearly define who you are and what you do, plus it should align with your brand and your company’s brand. Above all else, make sure it has the right pieces of information needed in order for someone to follow up with you. Include your name, company, social media handles and email at the very least.
8. Have Relevant Handouts
If you’re job-seeking, it’s important to have copies of your resume on-hand. If you’re meeting with partners or clients, make sure you have all the documentation for those meetings. If your main goal is lead generation and your company leverages physical brochures or information sheets, bring those.
You don’t want to necessarily be giving people just another thing to have to carry around, but with everything happening at in-person events, it’s safe to assume that people won’t remember every conversation they’ve had. Having a physical handout to pass-on can help jog their memory of your conversation and keep you at top of mind.
9. Dress Comfortably
It seems trivial to consider what to wear given the unglamorous nature of many B2B industries, but it’s an important consideration nonetheless.
Wear clothes you’re comfortable in. Many events are business casual, but check the event to be sure so you’re not overdressed or underdressed. Additionally, wear shoes you can comfortably walk in.
If you’re hosting a booth, wear some branded clothing to clearly indicate you’re connected with your company. But, don’t go overboard with your apparel. If people are too distracted by what you’re wearing, your conversations will be less productive.
10. Have a Post-Event Follow-Up Plan
After meeting a bunch of people at an event, you don’t want to fall off the internet for a month. People will be reaching out to you, and you’ll want to reach out to some of the contacts you made as well.
Stay on top of your email and social media, so the relationships you worked to start don’t crumble.
While you’re at industry events, try to enjoy yourself. Events can be stressful, but they can also be a fun change of pace from always working from a computer in an office.
However, make sure you balance that fun with productivity. You’re probably only able to go to a couple of events a year, if that, and a lot of money and resources go into getting you to those events. So, it’s important to be prepared to get the most out of the events you attend.
Tag(s): Lead Generation
Amanda is a former New Breeder.
Connect with the author