Attending a conference or trade show can be a good lead generation activity, along with a learning opportunity. It can also be overwhelming. It takes planning. Once you find a conference you want to attend, block the time on your calendar, register, and make the travel arrangements. You hope to meet great prospects. But do you? Do you get the results you were hoping for? Make sure you create a plan so that you get the most out of your time and money and generate some leads. It starts with meeting the right people and ends with following up appropriately. Most of the activity that matters is not what you think. It’s not what you do during the event as much as what you do before and after.
Let’s break it down:
1. Before the Conference
Start by researching and making a spreadsheet of events that your ideal prospects would attend. Once you’ve found the right event, based on your research, it’s time to set your goals. What do you plan to accomplish? You’ve already determined that it is important to your business to attend the conference. Now ask yourself: Which speakers would benefit you the most? Which speakers would your prospects want to hear? Who do you want to meet? How many qualified leads do you plan to make? You want to ask questions that will define your goals for this event. That way you can measure the success of the conference in a quantified way.
Now that you have a defined goal, make sure to connect with your prospects prior to the event to let them know you’re attending. Use social media to connect with people you don’t know who will be attending the event. Social media makes it easy to break the ice, in a non-threatening way. If you have Twitter, an easy way to keep track of speakers, exhibitors, and participants is to build a Twitter list. Below is an example of a Twitter list that I created before I attended Sales 2.0 (now Sales 3.0). I added all of the speakers and sponsors so I could interact with them prior to attending the event.
Make sure you also plan your time wisely. Print out the itinerary and research the speakers and booths that you will want to see and visit. Then create your itinerary based on the research you did.
2. During the Conference
Have your plan. Remember that itinerary I mentioned above make sure you print it, email it and take a picture of it on your phone. That way you don’t miss out on an opportunity to see a speaker because you don’t have cell service or lost your printout.
When meeting people, remember you are building relationships, you don’t need to sell at a conference; you need to learn. If the people you meet feel you have listened and offered a good tip or two, then you have earned the right to ask if you can schedule an appointment to call them in a few days.
[bctt tweet=”When meeting people, remember you are building relationships, you don’t need to sell at a conference; you need to learn.” username=”AliceHeiman”]
During the show connect to the people that you meet via social media. When making a request to connect mention where you met them at the conference. For example, “Hi Jack, Loved talking to you after Dan Pink’s To Sell is Human keynote! I really enjoyed your insights. – Alice” Take photos with the people you meet and post them.
- Post to social media and use the event hashtag.
- Make sure to tag the people that you take the photo with.
3. After the Conference
This is where all your preparation pays off. You met great people and learned from them as well as the speakers. Continue the relationship. Share what you learned. Develop the relationship and add value before you start to sell. If they are a prospect you will get an appointment more quickly this way than sending them spammy follow-up emails. If they are not a prospect, they will respect you for adding value and not selling and you may get a referral from them. As you make your follow-up contacts you can determine a longer-term strategy for staying in touch as you discover who is a prospect and who is a resource or referral source.
- Follow-up but don’t start selling yet.
- Don’t send a spammy email.
- Build relationships that can lead to sales, referrals, and collaborations.
If you plan to exhibit at an upcoming conference or event, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.