I enjoy going to conferences. I enjoy meeting new people. I enjoy learning new things. I enjoy getting away from my home-office and my cat (she can be a real jerk).
What I enjoy most is the way it helps grow my consulting business. Sure, I’m talking about networking. To get the most out of a conference, though, I prepare a couple technical things, too. Even if you’re not a consultant, these suggestions can help you get more from a conference.
How I Prepare My Handouts for a Conference
If you meet me at a conference, I have a couple things I can give you.
First of all, I have a business card. It has all the basics: name, phone number, email address, social accounts, etc. That way you can remember my smiling face and contact me, if you need my help.
I built an extra feature into my business card, to take things a little further: an offer. Don’t waste the back of your business card! If you look at the back of mine, I invite you to signup for my email list. My secret: I don’t just send you to the signup page, I use a tracking URL. The URL I use (which I won’t publish here) uses Google’s URL Tracker. This way I know you came to my site (and signed-up for the list) because you saw my business card.
I don’t just have business cards with me. I also have a chotchky. It’s that little something to give a special contact. While I’ll give almost everyone I meet a business card, if I feel like we’ve made a special connection you’ll get a pen. This pen doesn’t just have my name and logo. I use another tracking URL to tell me you’ve come to my site from my pen. In fact, if you’re curious, here’s what you’ll see when you come to my site.
Why go to all this trouble? Because I spent a lot of money to come to the conference. I’d like to make sure it was worth it. By using these tracking URLs I can tell how many people visited my site, after the conference. I can also tell how many people signed-up for my email list. Even better: I can tell how many new clients I picked up after attending it. Was it worth the time and money? My Google Analytics account can help answer that question.
Any company can do this. You don’t have to even spend money, on a pen. Just be sure you use the Google URL builder in your handouts, so you know how they found your company. Of course, if you wanted to be thorough you could even put tracking phone numbers on you handouts. That might be a little excessive- but you’d know, for sure.
How I Prepare My Social Channels for a Conference
We attend conferences to network. Don’t forget to extend this to your social networks. It’s a great way to increase your followers and spread your company’s message.
The first question I ask is, what networks will people be using at the conference? Usually conferences have several social media accounts. I start by following the conference’s accounts. From there I might find new people, who are attending, to follow. I’ll want to start following the speakers, too.
The second question is: are we using a hashtag? Hashtags allow us to talk about the conference, even if we don’t follow each other. It also introduces people to me, even if they don’t follow me.
Next I record my benchmark data. How many people are following each account? How many people regularly interact with me, on each network? My goal: show that my network and influence has grown, by attending the conference.
Now it’s time for a little pre-conference networking. Introduce yourself. Ask a couple questions about the conference? Ask for restaurant recommendations? Accommodations- where’s everyone staying? Remember: not everything on your social networks should be a sales-pitch.
Of course, you might not want to share those pictures from the after-party, either! Remember: people who are not at the conference are following your accounts, too.
How I Prepare to Take Notes at a Conference
While I consult companies in all-things internet marketing, my first love is SEO. That means I have an insatiable need for more content on my site. I can’t just write junk. It needs to be relevant, unique and helpful. This is hard to do. Something else always comes up that’s more pressing.
I’m not the only one who struggles with this. Even big companies have a hard time allocating resources to content.
The good news: conferences are all about content. The next time you go to a conference, make sure you blog about it. For instance you could blog about:
- Were there sessions in which experts explained something? Summarize it. Heck, add your own thoughts, too.
- Are their partners or vendors you can interview, for content on your website?
- Write a summary about what you learned, each day?
- What do our potential client need to learn, from the conference?
- What do you wish your clients could have learned from this conference?
Everyone has a smart phone. Make sure they take pictures, too. Make this easier with a small, bluetooth keyboard.
Whenever I blog from a conference, there are a couple of things I setup before hand.
- Plan ahead by picking the talks I’m going to attend or people I want to interview. If I’m going as part of a team, we’ll divide-up the talks, so we can cover more.
- Publish “draft” posts in my blogging platform for each piece of content I plan on publishing. That way, when I sit down for a talk, I’m ready to blog.
- In the title to each post, I add the presenter’s Twitter username (if they have one, of course) and the conference hashtag. This way the presenter and conference see it, when I…
- Send the post to Twitter, automatically. The Jetpack plugin (and others) can help you do this through WordPress. If you’re using another blogging platform, look into IFTTT to make sure you share it. Why Twitter? Because it’s publicly available to everyone. If attendees are active on other social accounts, I’d want to share my content on those networks, too.
How I Prepare My Website for a Conference
There are a couple technical things I like to check on my website, before I go.
Is my website mobile friendly?
Whether people come to my site through my business card or a live-blog post, I want them to be able to use my site. Since most people at the conference will be on their phone, I need to make sure this is as easy as possible. I’m not just talking about web design, either. It must be FAST.
If you don’t already have a mobile-friendly website, it can be expensive to convert yours or build a new one. If trade shows are a significant part of your sales efforts, it would be worth it. Maximize your spend on these events with a mobile-friendly site.
Do I use Open Graph and/or Twitter Cards?
If you’re going to be blogging the conference, share your content over social channels. This way other attendees can read (and share) what you’re learning. If you want to make this as successful as possible, make sure you use Open Graph and Twitter Cards on your blog. When you do this, your social post will include your picture and post’s title with every share. It will make your content stand-out from the stream of other content shared at the conference.
This isn’t that difficult, for most websites. Several CMSes have plugins that will do it for you. If yours doesn’t, a developer can figure this out- it’s simple.
Is my Remarketing Campaign running?
Nobody wants to be “that guy” at the conference. You know, making the hard-sell. Your digital efforts don’t have to reflect this, either. Let them come to your site, read your posts and learn about your company. Use the conference to introduce yourself. Bring the hard-sell, later.
Thanks to your boots-on-the-ground efforts, you’re getting new website visitors. They’re coming from business cards, chotchkies, and even your live-blogging. This is an excellent time to set a remarketing pixel on your site.
There are several things you could do with a remarketing campaign, here.
- Got a white-paper or another asset for someone to download? Retarget them to download it.
- Have an email list? Invite them to “stay in touch after the conference” by remarketing them.
- Heck, skip the hard-sell at the conference and let retargeting do the dirty-work.
You’re spending a lot of time and money to attend the conference. These things should make sure your efforts are worthwhile.
How do you prepare for a conference? Is there anything I’m leaving out? Do you have alternative suggestions? Add your thoughts in the comments, below.