Conferences and industry events are a rich ground for developing great business relationships… or are they?
I used to think so until I realised that after each conference I was only left with a used up name tag and a few contacts to people that I didn’t even see myself doing business with.
But I’m not going to go as far as saying “networking is a waste of time”. It isn’t – as long as you have a good action plan for squeezing the most value out of each event that you go to.
Here’s how to create your plan for the next event you’re planning to attend, and make conferences a part of your B2B sales strategy.
1. Does it make sense for me to attend?
Are you going just to be around interesting people and talk shop, or can you get something more from the event?
To answer this question, you need to first think of what business goals are currently most important for you, and pick one that’s the biggest priority.
When you have your goal, see if it’s possible to achieve it at the event you’re attending. If you need to raise funds, are there going to be any VCs looking for companies to invest in? If you need new clients, are there good potential customers for your business on the RSVP list?
So investigate the event’s profile, what kind of sessions are planned for attendees, and whether you’ll be able to actually meet people that you need to be talking to at the moment.
2. Should I walk around or have a stand?
I know it sounds nice to have a stand and have people come to you. But in reality you’ll be sitting among hundreds of your competitors and it will be very hard to garner attention, especially if you need to talk to a specific group of people.
If you have an idea and budget for an awesome stand, and you’re sure it will help you accomplish your goals then go ahead and set it up. But if you’re just going to be the 100th company with a poster and roll-up, I say just go as a visitor instead.
3. How should I prepare?
When you know that you’re going to the right event, you need to start organising proper networking a few weeks ahead of the event.
Start looking for opportunities to talk to desired people anywhere you can (social media, ask for a list, see who’s speaking and presenting, etc.) before the event:
- Check out the exhibitors, guests and speakers
- Check out local companies – being in the neighbourhood is a good opportunity to meet with someone outside the trade show
- Prepare a list of people with their email addresses
According to my stats, to get 10-20 good meetings you need to have about a 100 people on your list, so start digging!
Next, you don’t want to end up wandering around the conference searching for these people, so start reaching out to them about 3 weeks before the event. Just short & sweet messages (email, social media or both) with the basics:
- who you are
- why you want to meet
- what’s in it for them
With plenty of open conversations about scheduling meet-ups, make your life easy and employ clever scheduling software like Calendly.
When they respond, you want to set-up a specific time and place to meet, but even if you manage to get a “let’s meet sometime during the event”, it will be much easier to get to people and steal 15 minutes of their time because they’ll remember that you messaged them.
And if they don’t respond, follow-up. This is why you’re doing this a few weeks ahead – it gives you time to reach more people, many won’t notice your first message but might see one of the 3-4 ones you’ll send next.
…try this for your next event
I’m sure you won’t regret it. It isn’t a whole lot of work, and the time you spend will pay-off in valuable business contacts to help you with your most burning needs.
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