Making Conferences Pay Off

Making Conferences Pay Off

Can you leave every conference you attend saying, “That was worthwhile and a great investment”?

This week, I am at the Sport Event Congress (SEC) for Sport Tourism Canada. Two weeks ago I was at the WSC® Municipal Sponsorship Summit and in the next while I will also be attending the Western Canada Fundraising Conference as well as the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators to mention a few.  The SEC starts tonight with an opening reception and runs though Friday. They have an awesome line-up of speakers, and I am excited to moderate a panel on the struggles of generating alternate revenues including partnership and sponsorship dollars in this troubled economy. The panel is a cross section of amazing leaders with insightful points of view.

I often am asked the question I opened with above or even ask it to myself. I can honestly say that I truly get something of value from every conference I attend. But I must plan and know what I am trying to achieve. If I don’t go in with a plan, it will neither be productive nor will it “pay off.”

For the WSC® Municipal Sponsorship Summit last month, I had a several objectives. I delivered a workshop and a keynote address, so it was about sharing knowledge as well as generating leads. Several people came up and chatted with me during the two-day event. We exchanged business cards (yes, I still do that) and I have a few new friends and leads.

Also at this event, the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists® hosted a reception that allowed me to interact with other delegates and answer any questions they had and allow them to share amongst themselves in a social environment.  Also, we had several clients attending, so I had a chance to connect with them, talk about their projects and how they were coming along. In addition, it was just about catching up with industry folks from Canadian municipalities I had not seen in person in a while. We had time to chat, catch up, and schedule meetings for post-Summit. And of course, those I knew introduced me to those I did not. Others I just met through planned networking.

For each of the experiences noted above, I had a plan. I will measure success based on quality time spent with others and lead generation. My goal is to ensure the element that I deliver at any such event provides delegates with insightful, useful and easy to put into practice content. It is about ensuring value to the delegates who attend my sessions.

It is also to connect with the decision makers or influencers I know, those we are presently serving, those we are prospecting, and move the needle forward in each case. Also, it is to meet those folks we have yet to be able to assist and start the process on how we as a company can help them gain better bottom line ROI and revenue based on their sponsorship marketing investments. The goal is simple. The measurement is simple. Here are some of the things that I do at conferences to help me achieve my goals.

  • Make sure I attend social networking events be they cocktail parties, dinners, or lunches.
  • Always try to find a table at a meal where I don’t know anyone.
  • Bring business cards—yes, that old fashion format—but only hand them out if someone asks (I figure if you hand them out like free candy at an elementary school, they will be worthless and unappreciated. Only those who ask get one. I figure they are the people who have an interest in me.)
  • Ask others that I meet for their cards.
  • Try to send an email or a LinkedIn request to every person I meet (from whom I got a business card) within 48 hours. It is good way to say, “Great to meet you last night and I look forward to seeing you at such-and-such a session tomorrow.”
  • Try to attend all keynote/plenary sessions. Everyone is in the room and also these are the “headliners” like at a music festival. That is typically what you paid for.
  • Attend as many breakout sessions that are applicable to me as possible. If none are applicable, I use the time networking or in my hotel room/lobby area catching up on emails or other work.
  • If I can schedule a face-to-face meeting with someone (prospect, client, or person I just met) and it conflicts with a session I wanted to attend, I go with the face-to-face one-on-one.
  • Upon arrival, scope out a place to have meetings. I need an area to call “home base”/ “office” be that a café in the building or close by, a table in the delegate lounge area, or whatever. I try to ensure that I have a place to meet people one on one.
  • Research the speakers and attend those I think will help me be better at my job, or provide knowledge or content that will benefit my clients.
  • Try to say “thank you” to the speakers after their sessions, get their business cards, and then follow up.
  • Try to get a delegate list a few days prior to attending so I can see who is coming, determine which delegates I want to connect with, and then work to get through that list.

Please feel free to share how you measure success at conferences and ensure the investment in attending was worthwhile! I would be excited to learn other approaches. For even more great learning and a chance to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Canada’s longest running sponsorship conference visit this link to learn more about the WSC® Alberta Forum.

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