By Jennifer Bowman
I call them conference-hoppers.
Others use harsher, derogatory terms that probably aren’t appropriate for this blog to describe the entrepreneurs and business leaders who attend dozens of conferences a year, leaving their teams to fend for themselves back at the office with no real reasons to attend a conference.
They boast business development, networking opportunities, and speaking opportunities as reasons to attend 37 different events costing more than a pretty penny each.
But these aren’t real reasons to attend a conference. They’re fluff with no real return on investment attached to them. If a company or an individual is going to spend thousands of dollars attending or sponsoring an event, there better be a real return.
Networking, having fun, and learning are not tangible returns; they’re secondary niceties.
A little harsh, but a reality that entrepreneurs and business leaders need to face if they want to maximize their event investments. Below you’ll discover three real reasons to attend a conference so next time you’re presented with an opportunity, you’ll be able to say yes or no with clear goals in mind.
1. Prospects and New Leads are Attending
Attending an event your prospects aren’t at is kind of like running ads targeted towards the completely wrong audience.
Even if you’re given a free pass or asked to speak on a panel, it’s still useless. These things might make you feel good inside and boost your confidence, but feeling good doesn’t keep the lights on.
But meeting with prospects and potential leads do pay the bills, as meetings are the top driver of ROI. Meetings should be scheduled in advance of the conference or trade show, preferably using SummitSync’s meeting automation platform, but you can also use social media, advertising, or have your sales team reach out directly to their pipeline.
There are other ways to meet potential prospects at a conference including attending those beloved networking events (parties). These events provide an equal playing field to connect with potential clients, partners, and even employees. But if your target audience isn’t even at the event, they quickly become a waste of time.
If you take away anything from this article, please let it be that you should never attend an event that isn’t relevant to your business.
2. Stay Relevant
Every industry is rapidly and dynamically shifting and it’s become harder and harder to keep up with it all.
Which means it’s becoming harder and harder to stay professionally relevant to your peers, your clients, and even potential employers.
Conferences and trade shows provide a condensed and intense forum of learning on these broad, somewhat out-of-everyday-reach topics like real robust workshops that help you understand and execute against the buzzwords of today.
Choose courses, workshops, and keynotes that are relevant yet force you to be the little fish in the big pond. Yes, it’s fun to boast in a roundtable workshop on how you’ve done all this before but does it really help move the needle? Growing as a professional and individual requires you to get out of your comfort zone.
Great news is that if you’re only attending events your prospects are at, most sessions are at least tangentially related to your business so you can learn new things to stay relevant while engaging with applicable attendees.
3. Connect with Current Clients
Remember when I said the most important reason to attend a conference is whether or not prospects and potential leads would be there?
Still the most important factor, but current clients shouldn’t be forgotten about. Why? Well, loyal customers are 5x as likely to repurchase, 5x as likely to forgive, 4x as likely to refer, and 7x as likely to try a new offering.
Conferences and trade shows provide the perfect opportunity to turn current clients into brand evangelists. Host a dinner with all of your clients and partners to thank them all and create collaborations between groups. Send a bottle of wine to their room to show your appreciation. Pick up the tab on that quick coffee before the next keynote.
After all, face-to-face requests are 34 times more likely to convert than email asks. Get out there and get asking your current clients to be a part of a case study, create a partnership, or even use their logo on your site.
The Reasons to Attend a Conference Matter
Because the reasons underlying your attendance dictate your overall goals and experience at any event or conference. If you’re going to leave your team behind to spend thousands of dollars at an event, there needs to be a real return.