How can you make the most of the conferences you attend?

How to make the most out of conferences?

It is a privilege to be able to travel. You learn a lot when you attend events and conferences. You get to meet a lot of new people and network. This blog is focused on attending events and conferences where we are not exhibiting as a sponsor. This blog is also sales focused. 

Learn: One of the key goals for attending any event or conference is to learn. You get to understand the industry and the opportunities in the industry. Before traveling, it is best to read through the agenda and understand what sessions you want to attend. 

Networking: Networking is key when it comes to attending conferences.  

Conferences provide networking opportunities

Badge Colors: Usually conferences differentiate vendors from merchants or clients. You could notice this by the badge color. If the goal for attending an event or conference is to find clients, try to network more with the people with appropriate badge colors. It is also good to interact with vendors as it helps in partnerships and also can lead to referrals in the long run. However, as time is limited – it may not be best to spend hours talking with the same person. It is good to manage time efficiently.

Do not sit at an empty desk: When you need to sit, do not go and sit at an empty desk. Sit at a desk where there are some people so you could have a conversation. Here is a story. We were attending a user group event in Cleveland OH. We already had the list of companies attending, so we tried to be proactive, reaching out to some of them and see if there could be a potential need for our products/services. We reached out to a couple of people at a company and they said No. The user group was only a 15-20 person event.

I like smaller events and decided to travel to Cleveland, OH. In one of the sessions, I happened to sit at a table with another attendee. I started having a conversation. The person happened to be the President of the company. On further conversation, he started opening up more and started talking about some of the eCommerce challenges. I immediately had him look at his calendar & setup a follow-up meeting then and there, Our team showcased the product – and they were very impressed. In exactly 3 days, we ended up closing the deal and we still continue to work with them. 

Client Story: I attended an event in Las Vegas, NV (Magento Imagine). It was my first time attending Imagine and I was excited. There were a lot of merchants. Magento does a great job of differentiating badge colors. There was a booth where I saw a person sitting by himself on a nice couch. I needed to take a break as well and noticed the badge color. I decided to sit next to the person and have a conversation. He was kind enough to talk to me. When I probed more, he started talking about some of his challenges. He also happened to be the Director of eCommerce. 

Follow-ups: The key to all this is follow-ups post the conference. I followed up with him post the conference and in about 2 months, we ended up signing them on as a client. Though my contact is not with the company, we ended up being great friends and we still talk and exchange notes. 

Lunch Conversations: Lunch tables and coffee breaks are a good place to meet people. When you have lunch, you can choose a table which has a few people and try having a conversation with the folks at the table. 

It is ok if people do not talk to you: Remember, it is never a good idea to force a sale on anyone. If you start having a conversation and for any reason, if the person you are talking to does not respond in a positive manner or does not want to have a conversation with you, it is okay. Do not take it personally or be disappointed. Just move on to the next person. 

Build business relationships at conferences

Set small goals while attending conferences:

  1. You do not have to focus on 100 people, even if you can focus on 10 people – and try to set up follow-up meetings then and there at the conference, it is a win. However remember, in order to hit 10 people, you may have to target 100 people. 
  2. In my experience, it is good to close the deal in 2 months or so after attending the event. 
  3. Keep it simple: Come back with at-least 5 follow-up meetings. The more the better. It is not easy to set up 5 follow-ups. However, persistence & focus is the key.

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Further reading

Karthik Chidambaram