For as long as I have been in the market research industry, Fall has been ‘conference season.’ And while organizations like Quirk’s have established solid events in the first part of the calendar year, September-October-November continue to host most of the industry’s top events:
If you’ve got conference plans on your calendar this Fall, there are three areas that – if you’re properly prepared – can have a dramatic impact on your success at these events.
Prepare to Network
Networking is a critical component of the conference experience. And, regardless of your comfort level “working a room,” effective networking should be a goal for you at every conference you attend.
To be a successful networker, you’ll need three things:
- A pile of business cards, of course.
- A well-crafted Elevator Pitch that can be delivered in 20 seconds (no kidding!). The four parts of a compelling elevator pitch are:
- Who you are
- What you do
- Who you do it for (not just the clients you serve – but the problems that you solve for those clients)
- What makes you unique (sadly, almost no one includes this)
- A small notepad. Here’s why… have your conversation, swap business cards and as soon as the other person walks away, scribble down a summary of the conversation: what they told you about their job and their firm, the challenges they face, what products/services you talked about, any personal tidbits, next steps (if discussed), etc. Now, when you want to follow-up with them afterward, you’ll be able to do so with a great level of detail, not just a generic “nice meeting you” email.
Prepare to Learn
In addition to the ‘schmoozing’ we discussed above, learning about the latest industry trends, methods and technologies is a top reason to attend conferences. To enhance your learning experience, I want to share a simple technique that will help you better put into action some of the things you will learn at the conference.
We all take notes while listening to speakers. But next time, try this… on your note pad, draw a line down the middle of the page, from top to bottom. As the speaker delivers his or her presentation, scribble down any important notes (just like you’ve always done) on the left-hand side of the page.
On the right side, across from each note, record any immediate To Dos/action items/ideas/questions sparked by that note. If you don’t write it down right then and there, you’ll likely never remember it.
Then, at the end of the conference, you’ll have a complete and relevant list of To Dos… and a clear reference as to ‘why’ they’re on the list.
Prepare to Buy
OK, don’t come to a conference to actually ‘buy’… but you’ll be doing your firm a disservice if you don’t allocate some time to shop & explore with the exhibitors at the conference, getting a peak at the hottest new products, services and technologies developed for our industry.
In addition to the networking tools hi-lited above (business cards, elevator pitch and note pad), to get the most out of visiting with the exhibitors, do some homework before you ever get to the event:
- Browse through the list of exhibitors (the event producer always makes this available on the conference website)… and make a list of those companies you’d most like to connect with.
- For each of the selected companies, what – specifically – are you interested in talking with them about (i.e. which of their products and services)? Then come up with a list of questions you’ll want answered at the exhibits.
Of course, in addition to those firms on your list, keep an eye open for anything new that pops up… you never know what you’re going to find just by walking around.
Conferences can be a terrific place for you to connect, learn, sell and buy. And if the conference takes place in a warm location near the beach… well, that ain’t so bad, either.
But don’t just ‘show up’ at a conference and expect to get much out of it. When you plan, prepare, ‘work the event’ appropriately and follow-up effectively, your conference investment will be money and time well spent.
By the way, we didn’t discuss ‘exhibiting’ at conferences in this post. If you’re interested in improving the ROI on your exhibiting efforts, download a free copy of our eBook, Marketing & Sales for the Market Research Firm: The Exhibitor’s Workbook when you Click Here.