Conferences are a big investment. But if you go to the right one and execute well, they can pay back many times over.
Here's some thoughts on getting the most out of a conference, inspired by a recent visit to Launch Festival in San Francisco.
1. Pick the right one
There are a hundred conferences you could attend in a year. The conference can only be as useful as those who attend. Pick a conference where your users are.
2. Prep before you attend
Three things you should do:
1. Tell all your users, subscribers and social connections you are going to be there. It's a great opportunity to meet them face-to-face.
2. Book meetings in advance
3. Prep all the materials below - this will take a few weeks to get together
3. Create a great stand
One of the strongest feelings I had from Launch Festival was the impact of a company's stand. I observed a 10x difference in traffic between the best and worst. Here's what I observed in the best stands:
Big visual backdrop that stands out from the crowd.Have at least two people on your stand at all times.Make coffee on your stand (people love coffee and people will stand and chat while you make it). Swap to water at the end of the day.Videos, iPads and demos - lots of interactive objects to draw people in.
4. Create great materials
Once people are at your stand you want to load them up with great materials they can take away. They will tell others about your stand and remember you after the conference.
Here are the materials I received that stood out:
Custom designed notebooks
Voucher for a (meaningful) discount
White papers and books
Beautifully designed handouts!
If you have a high CLTV, consider investing even more here. For example, could you give a branded iPod for everyone who leaves you their details? Things like this make you stand out.
5. Talk to everyone
This should go without saying, but it so often doesn't. Talk to everyone who passes by, even if they don't seem interested. A friendly, "How is your day going" can start a conversation.
The value of the conference correlates with how social you are!
Practice and rehearse in advance of the conference.
6. Track impact
Knowing the ROI of the conference will tell you if you should be doing more, less or change how you execute them.
There are three easy ways to achieve this:
1. Set up a voucher code specific to that conference with a meaningful discount
2. Have a sign-up form on an iPad or laptop specific to the conference
3. Add the business cards of people you met to your CRM
7. Follow up & debrief
Once the conference is over, be sure to follow up with everyone you spoke to. Follow up more than once - it often takes two or three messages to get through.
While it's still fresh, figure out what you learned. Make notes for your future self to read when preparing the next conference. Share with the team and get their feedback.
I hope this post is useful. Conferences can be great if executed well. Good luck!