Attending conferences can cost a large amount of money – I average about $1000 a conference just for hotel, flight, and that doesn’t include the tickets. For this to make sense for your business, you have to know what your ROI is to make sure you’re getting the most out of the experience. So how do you go about multiplying the value of conference attendance?
While these suggestions are primarily for those attending business or professional conferences, they really apply to any kind of conference – including academic conferences.
There are four distinct stages to the conference attendance experience to examine when clarifying the potential value of conference participation! They each have their own tips for making the most of them. The goal is Return on Investment (ROI). So, what are these four stages?
2. During the event: in-person and online communications
4. Recovery and follow-up
Over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten a lot of questions from entrepreneurs and professionals about how best to activate their social media at a conference when they’re an attendee, speaker or sponsor.
Know why you are going!
My reasons for conference attendance are three-fold: 1) I am an advocate – so often I make and deepen relationships that help connect people in my advocacy role; 2) I often connect with companies who may be first degree connections with future clients; 3) I often participate in conversations that give me ideas and tools that can be applied outside of their original context.
1. Pre-game to set a foundation for great conference ROI.
- Make connections. Make as many social connections (with attendees, speakers, sponsors) as possible heading into the event, so that your meet-up in person is warm vs. cold. Connect with speakers and other attendees on linkedin.
- Outline Content prior to the event. Create a series of posts for LinkedIn or your website before, during and after the event. These posts could focus on questions you hope are answered, workshop/keynote takeaways, and perhaps a daily roundup. You can draft the outlines of these posts in advance – including social media images – so you can plug in the additional information from being there each day and hitting publish!
- Ask about event Hashtags in advance. Hashtags can be a great way to get involved with a conference. Use the hashtag(s) on social media (not Facebook, but other social media platforms), follow them and engage with others using them. You can save searches on Twitter so you can follow the conversation.
- Make a Date. Plan a pre-conference lunch or dinner to meet up with other attendees or speakers. This can be a great way to optimize attendance, build rapport and deepen relationships. A Lunch Connection hosted by Kristen Smith and Kayla Roof before the Military Influencer Conference is a great example! Plan to have drinks at the end of a day with 1-2 others inviting a couple more people you meet along the way.
- Write down your desired ROI. Writing down your desired return on investment can help you stay focused. Be sure that it is a SMART goal, to give you the best chance of achieving your goal.
- Pack well. We have a list of items to take to your next presentation, conference or Speaking engagement – Event Packing checklist
2. During the conference: in-person and online communications
- Be in the moment. Be present as much as possible. Look people in the eyes and ask genuine questions and listen. Don’t treat everyone you meet as an opportunity to pitch or sell. Be a person first. We have a Guide to networking at conferences.
- Tweet during each session – Engage in real-time conversation with those in and around the conference (speakers, attendees, supporters, sponsors). If tweeting is distracting, then just try one tweet per session. Try to tag the speakers or other attendees.
- Use Video – use video for behind the scenes exclusive footage, interviews from your perspective. Great tools for this include Facebook Live or LinkedIn Video.
- Add Value – Anything you post should be valuable, not a plug for your business. Focus on serving and adding value.
3. Post-Conference Hangover
- Know thyself. I am usually peopled out for the next couple of days. I try to make time in my schedule for some extra rest and recovery. I literally put it in my calendar as an appointment. Making the appointment prevents me from overscheduling on my first 1-2 days back in the office.
- Write it down. Keep a pad of paper to write down follow-up tasks that come to do during the downtime – there is something that the brain does when it is resting, sometimes the subconscious will tell you things that you may otherwise overlook
4. Recovery and follow-up are key for maximising conference ROI
- Make a plan and follow up in a timely manner. Within a week or two of the conference, send follow up emails and schedule informational calls with contacts. Please don’t make that first call a sales pitch.
- Connect with new contacts on LinkedIn and/or email. The main goal for me is to keep the relationship going past the event.
- Send anything you promised you would. Because you wrote down any promises you made, policy papers you said you would email, or any introductions you committed to making, now is the time to send anything you promised you would.
- Develop a checklist for post-event recovery and follow-up. Be careful viewing every new contact as a lead, focus on developing and deepening a professional relationship.
- Take the responsibility of having been given someone’s contact details seriously. Don’t automatically add the email addresses you have collected to your email management platform and add them to your email list. This is bad form professionally. Be sure to ask for an opt-in, rather than requiring an opt-out.
- Measure ROI. Review your goal established pre-conference. Write down what worked well and decide if you will attend this conference in the future.
What’s worked for you – how are you multiplying the value of conference attendance?
What has helped you get the most out of your conference attendance? How have you established your conference attendance ROI?
To learn more about Anna Blanch Rabe & Associates and our content creation services for law firms and social impact businesses, and how we serve the non-profit community through communications consulting, please contact us.