In the blogging community, you can always tell when conference season is starting. There are threads in all of the Facebook groups asking who is attending, which conferences are the best, and which sessions are most worth your time.
We know that for many small online business owners, the expense of attending conferences represents a significant investment of your marketing budget.
Well, we've attended dozens of conferences, in just about every possible role (attendee, speaker, exhibitor, keynote, and organizer). Based on that experience, we have a few pointers for you.
Use these 7 tips to maximize the return on investment for your next blog conference:
Engage in the Facebook Group and on social media
Most conferences have a Facebook group set up so that the attendees can network prior to the event. Make sure you seek out and participate in these groups! You can create great connections before meeting anyone in-person.
Additionally, follow the conference hashtag on your social channels and take the time to engage there.
Set up meetings prior to the conference.
Check out the attendee and sponsor lists and determine who you want to make a connection with. Don't hesitate to reach out and ask for a meeting: it may be something as simple as spending a few minutes chatting in the conference space, or making plans for dinner. This is a great way to ensure that you are maximizing your time at the conference and making the connections you invested in.
Bring business cards
Bringing business cards may seem like Conference Attendee 101, but it's always worth mentioning. You'd be surprised how often business cards get left behind.
Make sure your cards reflect your current branding. And—this is important—include your contact information. Yes, your social channels are important, but your name and email are critical, especially if you are connecting with brands.
Connect with your peers
Connecting with peers may seem to be implicit in attending a conference, but we want to urge you to step outside of your comfort zone and make sure you are networking with new people.
Story time: in January 2015, Jamie and Danielle met at a conference in Las Vegas. They were both speakers at a roundtable and had a chance to chat. Friends, that conference is where Businessese was born. Don't be shy. You never know when you may be sitting next to your future business partner.
Talk to the sponsors
As with the last point, this may seem incredibly obvious; you're probably thinking that sponsors are one of the main reasons you even attend conferences. But far too often, we see people pop their business card in the fish bowl on the table, grab some swag/candy, and run off without ever saying a word.
We want to urge you to have a conversation with the sponsors. This is your time to find out about their pain points and learn ways that you may be able to help them. It helps you learn how your audience is the right fit for them.
Maximize the sessions and engage with the speakers
Attend the sessions that make the most sense for your business. Yes, some topics may seem sexier than others, but the most practical course is to strategically schedule your time with your business goals in mind. Plan to attend the sessions that will best align with those goals.
If you need to dive deeper into a topic, don't be afraid to chat with the speakers after their session. We always encourage people to ask us questions or to grab us anytime to delve into a topic. The speaker may be able to direct you to other resources that they offer that could be a big help for you to reach your goals.
When you get home, promptly send follow-up emails and continue engaging with the community
We know, conferences can be draining and you need some time for re-entry back into the regular world (especially for the introverts!). But don't let a lot of time go by before sending follow up emails.
Take the business cards that you received and separate them. Make sure you send personal emails to everyone you want to connect with—we recommend doing this within the week following the conference, while conversations and faces are still fresh in their memory.
Continue to engage with the community, whether it is sharing memories and photos with the hashtag on your social channels, or continuing to chat in the Facebook group. Always remember, the conference doesn't end when you get home.
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We hope to see you at a conference soon!
Here are a few conferences we're attending this year:
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