A qualified sales prospect may turn out to be in the next seat at a conference session or happen by the booth in the vendor display area … but the odds are so long that if the only plan is to meet people randomly then it is probably not worth going.
The value of attending is multiplied many times when an industry conference serves as a platform to work from before, during and after by a team committed to making the most of the experience.
Specifically, contact targeted executives regarding the conference. Every interaction is a chance to make a strong personal connection around a topic of mutual interest (the conference); use it to gather intelligence and to impact thinking related to cultivating interest in organization offerings.
Along these lines:
- Identify who will attend that is a targeted prospect and arrange to meet at the conference. Study advance material to learn who will speak, chair, host, and plan the event. Ask conference organizers to share the list of registered attendees for this year’s and last year’s conference. Get in touch with those of interest and arrange to meet before, during, or after a session for coffee, a drink, dinner, or social function. Do not wait until the conference starts because schedules for the most sought after attendees will already be set.
- Identify executives in targeted organizations who should find the conference interesting and invite them to attend. Offer to help with travel arrangements, to share a cab or sit together on the plane or train on the way there and back. Get in touch afterwards to discuss what was learned.
- Schedule a reception in which to feature insights or new offerings and invite clients and those targeted to become clients to join for the content and a cocktail or hors d’oeuvres .
- Many conferences have interactive databases akin to Facebook that can be used to search attendees by characteristics such as industry, geography, etc. Use them find and direct mail those with whom you want to connect.
- Set up and encourage people to join an online conversation ahead, during and after the event. For example, find the conference hashtag and key Twitter accounts. and use it to draw attention to sessions that you look forward to attending, pass on quotes of what you hear, and share feedback throughout.
In addition to cultivating qualified sales leads, use the conference to:
- Position and develop individual team members as industry leaders by having them emcee the conference, host a session, make a presentation, sit on a panel, moderate a panel, give a key-note addresses, and sign and distribute original publications.
- Learn about other industry players and how they position themselves.
- Be recognized as being an industry player by prospects, clients, competitors, partners, and suppliers .
- Identify strong players to recruit into key positions.
Finally, use the conference as a reason to develop, test, refine, and apply a script to screen those who come by the booth and who are encountered in sessions and social functions. It is a waste of time to talk in-depth with every person because so few qualify as prospects worth cultivating further.
Change the odds by learning to quickly screen out those who do not deserve further attention and then take the time that would have been wasted to determine who you would have wanted to speak with if s/he had happened by and then find a way to be where they will be and make yourself known to them.