When I worked for a big corporation, conferences were fun ways to get out of the office, see the competitiors’ new stuff and learn cutting edge new things about my industry. Now that I own my small business, it is a well thought out and long-planned major client acquisition strategy that has to be budgeted and invested carefully. If you’re a small business, then you’re in the same boat as me– check out the below great tips on how to make the most of your conference investment this year:
1. Do some research. Don’t rely on a conference’s brochures or marketing speak to evaluate a potential conference. Talk to past attendees you know and find out how valuable they found it.
2. Look for sponsorship. Many times, suppliers look for opportunities to say thank you for your business, and this is a better choice than junkets and golf games.
3. Make a plan. Take a look at the seminars and workshops as well as the speakers and plan your first and second choice for each time slot. Review the exhibitors and decide which ones you want to see.
4. Free yourself. If you spend half of your conference time on the phone to your office or checking email you might as well have stayed home.
5. Bring supplies. Most of the food available is unappetizing and you may want to skip some meals to make the most of your time. Don’t forget your business cards.
6. Maximize your efforts. If your No. 1 seminar for a time slot is just covering what’s already in the handouts, or isn’t worth your time, head to your second choice.
7. Connect with colleagues. Are there people you work with from other parts of the country or the world who may be at this conference? Check that out and make a point of making contact.
8. Network, network, network. Talk to people — in line, sitting next to you, on a shuttle bus, walking through the exhibit hall.
9. Use the information. Come up with at least three ideas you can incorporate into your company. Then take a moment to consider whether you should attend again next year.
I have made amazing connections at conferences: gotten speaking engagements with the organizers for the following years’ conference, met vendors who became joint venture partners or gotten clients from chatting people up in the bathroom line up (we’re women!). How will you make your next conference a great bang for your buck?