Conferences are a significant financial investment. But the visibility they provide for you and your business can be invaluable.
Put your best foot forward with this comprehensive conference engagement plan. We’ve got you covered from pre-show to the show’s run to post-show.
Ask yourself four questions
First things first. Before registering for the conference, ask yourself the following questions to get your mind around the potential investment, time and resources involved—especially if you plan to have a booth.
1. Why are you going?
Is your objective to uncover new leads, introduce a new product or attract possible partners or investors? Is it to bolster brand awareness or get the scoop on what the competition is doing? Get specific to help focus your tactics and establish what metrics to track when measuring the ROI.
2. Can you present at the conference?
Chances are the keynote speakers are already locked in, but opportunities to present in breakout sessions might still be available. These sessions are great because they provide an intimate setting, allowing for more attendee engagement and participation. Speaking or leading a breakout session is an excellent way to demonstrate authority in your area of expertise and provide valuable information to would-be prospects.
3. If you plan to exhibit, are your booth and swag up to snuff?
To borrow from Bruno Mars, if you’re going to show up at a conference, you better show out. Meaning if you’re going to do it, do it right.
You don’t want to stand in a shabby-looking booth (and your prospects and other attendees don’t want to be seen standing in one). Your banners, tablecloths and other booth accents should match and look sharp.
Make sure you have enough company-branded swag to last the entire conference. Try to offer swag people can use—think notepads and reusable totes, not novelty items.
4. How will you measure success and ROI?
Your company’s leadership will want to know if attending a conference was worth the investment. Set measurable goals, such as how many new leads you want to generate, how many people stop by your booth, or how much you learn about the competition.
Now, it’s time to put together your conference engagement plan.
Three phases of a conference engagement plan
Phase one: Pre-conference activities
You’ve paid your registration fees. Now it’s time to let everyone know your company is attending the conference. Here’s how to build that anticipation.
Consider adopting a theme
Your theme could align with the conference’s theme, an industry trend, your organization’s specific business goals, or the event location. Weave that theme into all your communications and booth details. Choose a versatile theme, and you can use it for multiple conferences.
Get the word out on the web
Announce that you’re attending on your company website’s home page or create a dedicated landing page. The page can allow attendees to book one-on-ones with your team while you’re there, enter to win giveaways and take advantage of other offers.
Send pre-show emails
Most conferences will provide a pre-show email list of all registered attendees. If you’re exhibiting, consider creating a mini-email campaign to connect with attendees before the show, using these best practices.
- Begin dripping out your emails at least eight weeks before the event, sending one every other week. Starting early gives you enough lead time to alert prospects and other attendees that you’re going. And it’s a comfortable cadence that keeps your company top-of-mind without being spammy.
- Use clear subject lines and copy so that your emails stand out from the clutter.
- Include a specific call-to-action (CTA). Don’t just announce you’ll have a booth; give people a reason to stop by. Is it for a free demo? A chance to win something great? An opportunity to speak with the owner of your company? Be clear and concise and include the information in every email.
Promote your participation on social channels
Use social media to promote your attendance.
- Sync up your posts to coincide with your pre-show emails to keep your messaging focused and consistent.
- Promote your booth location (if you’ll have one).
- If someone from your organization is speaking, ask them to preview their topic.
- Use the conference’s hashtag for broader reach and engagement.
- Encourage your team to re-share posts on their own channels.
Go over the registrant list with your sales team
Identify prospects from the registered attendee list with your sales team. Then, email those prospects to schedule a demo, a meeting or a meal at the conference. Be sure to confirm who on your team will be talking to whom so you’re not duplicating efforts.
Book meetings and client events well in advance, ideally as soon as you register for the conference. The organization hosting the event may send you a list of area restaurants, hotels and other places to network before and after each day’s session. If not, a Google search will work just fine.
Refine your “elevator pitch”
Make sure everyone on your team who’s attending has a 30-second pitch to introduce themselves and the company to new people. Practice together to ensure everyone’s pitch is concise and compelling to ensure that each conference conversation gets off to a good start.
Plan how to track interactions at the conference
Develop a system with your team to track conversations and collect contact information as people stop by your booth. The info you gather is essential for post-show follow-up and will allow you to nurture business relationships—maximizing your conference ROI.
Conduct a collateral check
Update one-pagers, capabilities brochures, etc. And make sure you order enough copies to last for the entire event.
Phase 2: During the conference
Promote your participation in real time
Your social channels should be active during the conference. Ask someone on your team to document your experiences with photos and videos. If you’re exhibiting, get shots of your booth when it’s busy. Take video of any booth activities, the swag you’re offering and nightly events you attend. Then create posts that build interest.
Look sharp and stand out
Having everyone on your team wear the same uniform helps with brand recognition and can serve as a great conversation starter. But if showing up in identical shirts or uniforms isn’t your thing, you can be more subtle. Consider wearing coordinated colors or the same pin or other accessory.
Triage leads in real time and beware the swag collectors
Some people will stop by your booth solely for the swag or to get a stamp that proves they were there. Politely acknowledge these fellow professionals and then allow them to move along. The sooner you can identify who’s there for the stuff and who’s there for the substance, the better your chances for productive conversations.
Phase 3: Post-conference activities
Phew! Plan on being exhausted after the conference. Take a breather and then get back at it—there’s still work to do.
Load up the CRM
Gather all of the information your team collected at the conference and organize it in your customer relationship management (CRM) system or another lead tracking system. Your notes should include:
- Prospect contact information
- What you discussed at the conference
- Where each prospect is in your sales pipeline
- Any other context that would be useful to your team
Enter this information as soon as possible when your memories of the event are fresh. And be sure to share all conference intel with your sales team.
Communicate with people you met
Within 72 hours of returning home from the conference, send a post-show email to a targeted list of prospects (Hubspot suggests doing it even sooner, within 24-48 hours). Be sure to:
- Include a personalized subject line (nothing generic like “Wow! What a great time.”)
- Reference a shared moment or key points you discussed
- Convey how your company can help them reach their goals
- Ask them to connect with your company via LinkedIn, your website, etc.
Send a one-time email blast to other attendees
Some conferences provide a post-show contact list of all attendees. You can use it to email people you didn’t meet and encourage them to:
- Attend a webinar you’re hosting
- Request a product demo
- Subscribe to your company newsletter
- Follow you on social media
- Request a freebie, such as a popular blog post or white paper sponsored by your company
Whatever you decide to promote, this follow-up can serve as a way to delight and interact with attendees.
Let WriterGirl help up your conference game
WriterGirl can help you develop a conference engagement plan that makes participation pay off, from pre-show emails to post-show follow-ups. Send us a message to get started.