How do you attend a tech conference? I ask this question as if I’m looking for a very specific answer and, I am. “You mean, there is a right and wrong way to attend a conference?” Yes. And as our ever-so-cherished employees here at Verb gear up and plan to check out a myriad of conferences in the coming months, we want to share with you how we do it; we, “started from the bottom now we here!” And believe me, we have learned A LOT over the years. Our team has made mistakes, and made even more mistakes, but now feel confident enough to finally call ourselves pros at conferencing. Here are some pro tips that will make even the most amateur tech conference attendee appear as if they wrote the book on networking. Ok, that may be overzealous. These tips will save you some embarrassment, give you some guidance, and boost your confidence, how ‘bout that?
You want to treat tech conferences just as you would usual business--strategically. Think about your marketing strategies, along with the knowledge needed to successfully appeal to your audience. Who will be attending the conference? What do you want to take away from the conference? How will you connect with other companies? Take the answers to these questions and apply them to the way you prepare and conduct yourself at a conference. Showing up is the easy part. We will do you a solid (fist bump) and give you some pointers on the right way to attend a tech conference. It all boils down to preparation.
Focus on the audience
Do your research. Before you pack your bags and head out to do your thing, know (or at least have a good idea) of who will be in attendance. Don’t go in blind because just like you need to know who you are marketing to daily to ensure that strategies are working, you need to be prepared for the crowd. Showcase your product in a way that will appeal to the people because remember, we are all humans just wanting to connect with humans. Don’t be too “techy” but do be unique and present how your product will provide solutions to problems. A complaint noted by, The Guardian, of 2018’s CES was that showcase products were “nice-to-haves” but didn’t fulfill unmet needs and held price points more appropriate for the top 1 percent. Be relatable to the people to have a better chance to connect and build relationships. Being aware of who will be attending each conference will also give your team an idea of where you want to focus your attention and energy. Is there a potential client that could benefit from your product? Zero in on those companies, and then put in the work. Ask questions about their buying cycle, and explain/demo, how their product could benefit from your product. Identify the people within the team who make the important decisions, and then set aside time to meet with those individuals one-on-one. Understand going into the conference that you will need additional time blocked out in your schedule to connect with other teams to pitch your product and build meaningful relationships. Your business is spending the time and money to attend the conference, so make sure you are prepared to work to get something out of the conference. Preparation = return on investment.
Create a clear goal
Just as you have a clear goal in mind before sending an email thread, writing a blog, or posting an interactive video to your social media page, your team must attend the conference with an end goal in mind. What are your team members working towards? Even if your team is a group of seasoned, conference-going individuals, who have previously networked and built partnerships, the work is not over. Your main goal may not be creating new relationships but work to solidify those you’ve already built with attendees you’ve met and partnered with in the past. If you are new to the conference game, your primary goal may be to simply get your name out there. How will you do that? Will the focus be on a killer booth and demo? Or do you want to walk away from the conference with at least 5 one-to-one meetings in your pocket? Identify the strategies your team will use to be recognized and be sure that all team members are on the same page.
Engagement…ahhh, arguably the most important aspect to a successful conference. When I talk about event engagement, I am referring to how your team networks and socializes with those vendors who could potentially become an alliance, as well as how your team engages with attendees who could benefit from your product. Let’s start with the attendees who you may not be able to partner with but could benefit from your product. There is so much more to a vendor’s booth than giving away free swag. Free swag is a plus, but certainly not the ticket to successful engagement by any means. Ask yourself, ‘how can our team make an impact on each attendee who stops by our booth within a short amount of time?’ Offer an experience. For example, here at Verb we pride ourselves on facilitating successful customer engagement through interactive video software, taggCRM. We may want to showcase one of the many features offered with our one-of-a-kind software like, real-time interaction, by asking you to punch your mobile number right onto the phone icon within our video. As soon as you push the ‘send’ button, you’ll be connected to our sales team standing right in front of you. Not only will this allow the visitor to engage with our software and team, but now we have contact information to follow-up with our interaction.
Try highlighting a problem that could be solved with your product. Our Verb team might encourage booth guests to surf our dashboard showing the analytics provided by taggCRM, such as the amount of time one of our videos was viewed by a website visitor, to show how useful that information will be when trying to decide the next step in engagement.
Now, let’s discuss networking with other vendors who could potentially become an alliance or partnership. As previously stated, scope out the other attendees before the conference to have a clear plan of action. Focus your attention on those teams because this effort may lead into cross-marketing in the future. As reported by Bizzabo, the most successful businesses are spending 1.7x the average marketing budget on live events. The proof is in the pudding! Spend time and money now to attend live conferences to build relationships that will benefit your bottom line in the future.
While making connections and linking up with other vendors is extremely important, don’t over do it. We can relate, and we understand the excitement over landing a potential sale or partnership but, relax. You don’t want to seem desperate. Don’t be too serious, maybe indulge in a few friendly libations during a meeting to lighten the mood, but don’t be ‘the drunk dude’ because you want to be remembered for your product, not your bad jokes. Don’t be too standoffish, though. Is this beginning to feel like a guide to dating? It wouldn’t be a bad idea to think of conference engagement like you would dating; it’s all about meaningful interaction, and strategic engagement, to build trust to create that partnership. Our team at Verb finds it helpful to take notes. Really listen to people, and through this you will be able to identify their needs. Make note of important details and review your conversation in preparation for your next meeting. Doing this will speak volumes.
Once you feel the connection, schedule the next meeting on the spot! Throughout the years, we have realized that no matter how interested an individual may seem to reconnect during a conference, linking up after the conference can be challenging. Be strategic, and don’t leave a successful meeting without scheduling your next interaction; you may want to meet one more time before the end of the conference, or shortly after the conference is over. Think about when you leave a dentist or haircut appointment. The receptionist always pushes you to schedule your next visit. Why? Because people get busy, are forgetful, and time tends to slip away from us. You are far more likely to continue building that relationship when you pre-schedule your next meeting.
Now that we’ve provided you with some tips to prepare for a conference, and how to conduct yourself like a pro, create a plan of action! Your future-self will thank you. Be aware of who will be in attendance and decide which companies will receive most of your energy and efforts. Decide amongst your team what the goal is, and what it is that will benefit your business the most. Remember, you want to focus on the strategy that will boost your return on investment. Lastly, engage like your business depends on it. Put your all into meaningful interactions, and don’t forget to follow-up. Be aware of these do’s and don’ts and go into the next conference looking like a pro!Now that we’ve provided you with some tips to prepare for a conference, and how to conduct yourself like a pro, create a plan of action! Your future-self will thank you. Be aware of who will be in attendance and decide which companies will receive most of your energy and efforts. Decide amongst your team what the goal is, and what it is that will benefit your business the most. Remember, you want to focus on the strategy that will boost your return on investment. Lastly, engage like your business depends on it. Put your all into meaningful interactions, and don’t forget to follow-up. Be aware of these do’s and don’ts and go into the next conference looking like a pro!