How to make the most of in-person events
Industry events and networking events can be very helpful for getting up to speed with trends relevant to your field, building awareness of your brand/product/service and trust, understanding and connecting with like-minded people and important audiences, furthering existing relationships and more.
However, if not planned strategically and without sufficient preparation and/or follow-up, they can be a waste of valuable resource.
Considerations before you attend:
Goals and desired outcomes from the event
Be clear on why you are attending the event and have specific objectives.
- Number of new connections to make and/or data to capture [specify type of connections you are seeking, connections/ leads/ prospects number, job function, number of appointments to make if relevant, etc.)
- Strengthen connections with existing partners [specify name, type, number]
- Find new potential partners [specify type, number]
- Market research related to your subject area [specify company size, type, number]. You can survey attendees or have conversations about topics like:
- Challenges the organisation faces
- Solutions related to challenges you solve, that the organisation has tried and is currently using. What has and hasn’t worked and why? Who has been involved in the decision-making process for choosing a solution?
Introductions and representation
- Be curious about what others do, listen and consider how you can add value to the other person (not necessarily through a sale).
- Questions like these are a good conversation starter:
- What brings you to this event?
- I have not been at this event before Have you been here before?
- What do you think about the event/ topic/ speakers/ panel/ questions? What has stood out for you so far?
- Focus on connections (can be leads generation), not sales, but be ready with your 60-min pitch for conciseness
- Consider how you will represent your organisation. If you are an exhibitor, ensure your stand represents your brand in a memorable way. A free activity that adds value to visitors can be really helpful. For example a quiz related to the impact from use of services similar to your offering, ending with diagnosis and recommendations for improvement.
- Consider environmentally-friendly alternatives to traditional collateral and merchandise. For example, use digital business cards or simply use the LinkedIn QR code (if this won’t ) and give away wildflower seeds with instructions for planting and maintenance (you’d need to be creative with giveaways to ensure they are memorable).
- Think of what follow-up might be appropriate when getting new business cards.
Update your database with the contacts made, conversation notes and follow-up actions.
Follow up on actions you’ve discussed and share content or insight that might be useful to your connection. For maximum impact, the follow-up is best to start within 24 hours from your interaction with them at the event.
- Schedule an appointment- for example, an expert interview
- Offer to them to take part in an activity you run that’s related to them, e.g. speak at an event
- Engage with their content on social media
Reminder: Networking is a numbers game but it’s still important to aim for meaningful conversations, not just business card collections or connections via LinkedIn.
Events can be a powerful lever in your marketing and communication. Clarity on your goals for events participation, plan of attack, preparation, database update and follow-up help to ensure your time spent on events brings meaningful value for your organistaion.
How do you make the most of your attendance at in-person industry and/or networking events?