7 Tips to Maximize Your Time at a Conference

Conferences and trade shows pack a one-two punch of marketing and networking opportunities. These industry events are places to learn about the latest trends, catch up with colleagues and get your business card in the hands of potential clients. There’s a lot you can accomplish, so it’s important to have a strategy to make the most of your time, whether you have just a few hours or a whole week.

Berbay has a detailed checklist we reference before going to any trade show or conference. It ensures that we don’t waste any time (or any money – these things can be expensive!) and that we put the connections we’ve nurtured to good use.

Here are the top seven tips from the Berbay checklist:

  • Plan your networking strategy. Virtually all industry events will post a list of vendors (and sometimes a list of every attendee) ahead of time. Review it carefully so you can adjust your goals, marketing materials and talking points to match your audience. Note who you need to say hello to and who you want to meet, and if there are any key contacts you want to reconnect with, make plans to meet up. Reach out in advance to get on their calendar; don’t rely on bumping into them at the conference.
  • Use raffles and giveaways to collect contact info. Sure, conferences are great for learning, but everyone really loves the free stuff. Raffles are the perfect way to draw people to your booth, start a conversation and collect their business cards. It even gives you an excuse to follow up with the winners after the conference. If you use this strategy, make sure one person is in charge of managing the raffle and contacting the winners afterwards.
  • Don’t force it. There’s no need to make a hard sell to a passerby who’s clearly not interested. It’s not a loss if someone takes a few materials from your table and moves on. If you offer memorable, informative giveaways, attendees might still give you a call once the conference is over. And for the people who do want to chat, remember to listen more than you speak.
  • Make it look nice. Speaking of giveaways and marketing materials, they should be displayed in a way that’s attractive and easy for people to take. Don’t crowd your table with a million brochures and giveaways – just bring the most useful and relevant materials. Invest in stands and displays so your table is organized and people can take a quick glance at everything, even if they’re just passing by.
  • Keep an eye on the competition. Attending a conference or trade show is a way to better your own business and career, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at what others are doing. Scout out the vendors that have a lot of foot traffic, the giveaways that are making a splash and the booths that look the coolest. Next time, adapt some of their strategies to suit your own needs – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.
  • Take notes. Nothing is more frustrating than coming back from a conference and not remembering the name of a potential lead or the giveaway that you wanted to order. Take copious notes about the vendors that stand out, any new connections you make and the trends and challenges being talked about. Write down your successes and stumbling blocks so you can improve for your next event.
  • Put it all into action. The real work starts when you’re back at the office. A debrief meeting is essential to chat about new opportunities that you discovered, tell other coworkers what you learned and plan your next course of action. Make sure to follow up with leads and put contact information into your database ASAP. Then, get ready to do it all again at the next conference.

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