Let’s talk about how to maximize the value of attending conferences & expos. After all, we go there with the aim of generating new business opportunities and we want to make most out of it.
How to approach conferences & trade shows?
The conference itself is not so important. Your goal should be to set up as many meetings as possible.
The first thing is to take the exhibitors list and filter those who are of interest to you. Send them a simple e-mail saying that you’re going to attend the conference and whether they would be up to meet. You can do the same with people who are tagging the conference in social media (every event has an official hashtag).
But don’t stop here. Sometimes you can get more business out of meetings set up around the event than at the event itself. If you’re going to a conference in Barcelona, reach out to any noteworthy companies based there, even if they don’t attend the conference. You can also connect with those based in Madrid, because who knows – maybe these meetings will be more fruitful?
Also, don’t forget to let your contacts know that you’re going to a conference. Announce it on all of your social media accounts and in the newsletter (assuming that you have one).
How to handpick companies that might be relevant to your business?
All in Mobile is a software house that develops mobile apps, but we specialize in projects for specific industries such as sports. So it’s natural for us to target sports companies rather than set up meetings with people from our own industry (mobile and tech).
After choosing the company, it’s important to do a little bit of research and learn what goals or challenges they have, and if we have some things in common. With that knowledge, it’s easier to personalize an email or spark an interesting face-to-face conversation.
Buy that VIP (Very-Important-Pass)
Don’t buy that cheapest pass that doesn’t have a list of exhibitors and attendees.
You want to know who’ll be there so that you can prepare for the conference and reach out to the attendees to suggest a meeting.
Last year we bought The Executive Pass for a tech conference because it included participation in the exclusive VIP side events and entry to VIP area. It was the most expensive pass, but it gave us a chance to sit and talk with some executives (and in the end, to make a very lucrative deal).
Those who organize conferences are very smart. They know that most valuable networking happens in chill-out rooms, side events and all these places with informal atmosphere where people feel more relaxed and open. So they often restrict the access and make you pay money to get inside.
And you should pay. Because these informal events have the highest ROI.
How to network like a pro?
Don’t sell. Ask questions, find things in common and offer help.
Here’s a few examples:
At one of the conferences, we knew exactly who we wanted to talk to. We approached them with one simple question:
“How did you grow from 25 people to over 200?”
This was a great opening question because:
- We showed we did some research and were actually informed about the company
- We could learn from their experience & gain some value even if no deal would come out of this
- They could talk about themselves (everybody’s favourite topic)
They contacted us after three weeks. We have built a solid business partnership that lasts till now.
Also offering to help seems to be a great way to build relationships that can pay off.
At one of the conferences we met a guy who was looking for a job in Poland. We offered to help and send his CV to a couple of fellow companies that could use his skills and experience.
He eventually found a job somewhere else and the company that employed him was in need of mobile app. They asked him if he knew any software houses. He said he did and recommended All in Mobile.
Since we were eager to recommend him, he did the same for us.
Sales people are pretty familiar with the law of reciprocity. The principle of reciprocity means that when someone does something nice for us, we feel compelled to give something back in return. By understanding this unconscious social convention, you can begin to use it to your advantage in the world of business.
But wait… there’s always a catch. The need to return a favour is strongest when the initial good deed was done with no expectation of ‘repayment’. Your help should always be sincere.
Looking for more opportunities?
Become an exhibitor or a speaker. If you’re a speaker you might even get a pass for free.
Don’t know what to speak about? If you don’t have much experience or your own interesting case studies, just gather some books and use the-ultimate-source-of-all-wisdom aka internet. There’s lots of knowledge out there, you just need to present it nicely.
(From our experience, a little bit of stand-up elements or a meme here or there in the presentation might energize your audience. But if you don’t feel it, it’s better not to use it – it’ll look unnatural and forced)
If you want to get more people to attend your talk, you can hand out simple flyers to advertise it.
How to determine the potential ROI (return-on-investment) of the conference?
The sad truth is that all noteworthy conferences are pretty expensive. You have to pay for the tickets and passes, for the flights, accommodation and food. Add it up and we have a small fortune to squander.
How to check whether it will pay off?
There’s a popular English aphorism that goes like this:
“Fake it until you make it”
This means: Act as if. Act as if you were going to the conference even though you don’t have that pass or ticket yet.
And then contact people who might attend the conference (exhibitors list) or people who might be around (e.g. companies based in locations close to the conference). Drop them a line, say you are going to attend the conference and ask whether they would like to meet.
Now see the response rate. Is it high or is it low? How many people are interested in meeting you?
If the response rate is high – great! Buy that pass and go to the conference. You already have plenty of arranged meetings, which can potentially bring some value. You have the lemon, now you just have to squeeze it.
If the response rate is not satisfactory, but still some people agreed to meet you – make the most out of it. Say your plans have changed and you’re not attending the conference, but would like to keep in touch. Figure out if you or they will be around somewhere soon. You might even fly just to meet with those who were up for a meeting and skip the conference altogether.
Before the conference
Make a checklist of all things you need to do or bring with you to the conference. As Brain Tracy said: “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1000 percent Return on Energy!’”.
After the conference
This is pretty obvious, but don’t forget to send a follow-up by email and connect on Linkedin and Twitter.
Here’s some useful tools and apps that take networking to the next level:
- Evernote Scannable
With this app, you can take a picture of the business card and it will search for the Linkedin profile of the person. This is a fast way to connect on Linkedin, as well as send a digital version of your own Business Card by email to email address on the card. This always makes a good impression on people.
- Automate meetings with Calendly
Calendly is a time-saving scheduling tool that lets you schedule sales calls without the back-and-forth emails. Simply send the other person a link that will display your availability. It automatically syncs scheduled meetings with your calendar of choice and you can send email notifications to invitees. Time zones are automatically handled so everyone is expecting the same time.
That’s all, folks. Don’t forget to check our calendar for all the conferences & expos we’re attending in 2018.