The smell of networking in the air. Booths freshly stocked with promotional items. Business cards at the ready. Anticipation mounting. You know what that means ‒ it’s almost conference season!
Every year, in nearly every industry, businesses organize conferences that attract the best and brightest professionals. Attendees and speakers share knowledge, network, and mingle in an effort to stay up-to-date with trends and remain on the cutting edge of innovation.
If you’ve had a chance to attend a conference you know that it can be a bit overwhelming, with many decisions to be made: Which sessions should I go to? What booths do I want to make sure I visit? Which speakers do I want to meet? And, of course, who will I sit next to at lunch? (Let’s face it, some things never change.)
In this guide we hope to dispel myths, share resources, and highlight a few helpful best practices so you can get the most out of conference season.
Marketing Conference Resources
The value a conference can provide is often centered on its relevance and application to your current job and future career prospects. Additionally, cost, audience size, and digital presence should be taken into consideration. Digital marketing conferences offer a multitude of options. So, where should you start?
Throughout the year, Act-On Software attends, speaks, sponsors, and hosts events, trade shows, and webinars that support customers and partners. Check out the Trade Shows, Networking Events, and Education Sessions page to get started!
Another great place to start is with this amazing marketing reference provided by MarketingTerms.com. Sean O’Rouke created a very helpful collection of the top conferences to attend in 2017 (178 so far). Best of all? It’s in a sortable and handy Google Doc that’s updated regularly and provides more resources than just information about conferences. Check out the free trials, tools, calculators, podcasts, blogs, and forums, in addition to finding a conference that interests you.
Niche Marketing Conferences
A niche conference might be the right way to go if you’re specifically focused on marketing one particular industry. Here’s a list of a few to get you started on your search.
Marketing Conferences by Discipline
Instead of looking at conferences by industry, perhaps you’d rather target a specific discipline that’s more in line with your needs and the type of niche you want to focus on. From CRM and email to affiliate and mobile marketing, there are plenty of conferences with specific focuses. Check out a few resources that may help:
Guides to Marketing Conferences
Still looking for a bit more guidance on which conference to choose? These resources are sure to help! Don’t forget to check out the comment threads on these articles; they’re chock full of additional resources.
Once you’ve selected the conference you’d like to attend, it’s time to do a little preparation so you can get the most out of the experience. The following tips will help you optimize your time as an event attendee.
10 Tips for Thriving at Your Next Marketing Conference
#1 Work the room before you’re in the room.
Make sure to learn about the conference in advance of attending. Visit its website and social profiles, join any groups on LinkedIn, and follow Twitter lists and other online areas ripe with information. Start engaging with other attendees and get your networking started before you even leave for the conference.
Get to know the agenda, session tracks, history of the event, and location. Schedule your calendar once you’ve decided which sessions you want to attend and outline an itinerary for yourself. This will help you stay organized while you’re at the conference and ensure you a spot in the sessions you want to attend. Plus, you might just impress your boss with how organized and excited you are about attending the event.
#2 Keep a pulse on the event online.
Digital marketing conferences almost always have a heavy online presence. Monitor any conference hashtags, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, and more. Keep your eye out for special giveaways and promos that sponsors might be running. Do free crab dinners, private 1:1 sessions with your favorite speaker, limo rides, or VIP access to clubs sound appealing? Then trust me, it’s worth the investment of time to scour social media before you attend.
#3 Set goals you want to achieve by attending.
Specific, actionable, measurable, and timeline-oriented goals are often the most effective. Think about what you want to get out of the conference. It might be to connect with clients or meet prospective new clients. It could be to learn more and understand inside secrets and tips. Or, you might be attending as a speaker. Whatever the reason, be sure to set a few objectives and establish what you want to accomplish before attending. By making these aims specific ‒ such as “give out and get at least 10 business cards” ‒ you’ll be more likely to meet your goals.
#4 Stock up on business cards and don’t forget those extra batteries or power supplies.
Plan to bring a good supply of business cards to hand out. That’s essential preparation for any networking event, let alone a conference where you might be meeting people from another state or country. Keep plenty on hand and remember to carry them with you each day.
At large conferences, Wi-Fi is often in high demand and can be a drain on your devices. Make sure to bring extra power supplies, such as chargers and extra batteries. You may need to use your phone as a Hotspot device when Wi-Fi isn’t available. Inevitably, this drains your battery and you’re left searching for an outlet in which to charge your device. Do yourself a favor and stock up beforehand.
#5 Document your experience well.
Take notes during the sessions you attend and don’t forget to bring a pen and paper … just in case. At one of the first conferences I attended, I remember thinking I’d be able to use my computer in each session. But standing-room only sessions, low battery, and no wifi resulted in me not being able to document the event with notes. After that experience I always make sure to bring my low-tech back-up pen and paper to all sessions I attend.
#6 Give a card, take a card.
Even if you’re not at a conference to get more customers, as a representative of your brand you should take networking seriously. You’re a brand advocate and are acting as the face of your company, which likely paid for you to attend. Give a business card out and then make an effort to receive one too. Pass along the cards you collected to your sales team or boss as proof of who you were able to meet. Create a friendly competition with your attending colleagues to see who can meet the most people.
#7 Keep ROI in mind.
It can be expensive to attend a marketing conference, not to mention the travel costs and time away from the office. Make the most of your trip and always keep the price tag in mind. Get the most return from the money spent by attending sessions all day, networking with as many people as possible, being aware, and taking the event seriously. Missing keynotes because you overslept, leaving early to attend a party, talking with your friends during sessions ‒ these are all examples of failing to keep the ROI in mind.
#8 Have your elevator pitch ready.
Ultimately you’ll be meeting people you’ve never met and they will ask you what you do. Be prepared by having your “elevator pitch” ready to go. It should briefly outline what you do, ideally in three sentences or less. The last thing you want is to sound unprofessional or unsure about your role, your company, or your brand. Think ahead and practice it a bit until you have it down.
#9 Have fun but be professional.
Marketing conferences are usually incredibly fun and they also allow you to connect with industry friends. But, after all, they’re still business events, so keep your attitude and behavior businesslike. Don’t drink too much and make a fool of yourself. Remain strictly professional and you’ll be better off in the long run.
#10 Share what you learned.
Last but certainly not least, remember to share what you learned. Don’t attend a conference expecting to keep the knowledge to yourself ‒ that’s selfish! In the past when I sent employees to conferences I’d suggest they bring their takeaways back to share with others. This can be done in several ways:
- Create a blog post of your top takeaways, resources, and helpful knowledge.
- Present the key takeaways to your staff or other colleagues.
- Send your colleagues slides, resources, and documents you found useful.
- Make copies of your notes to hand out to those interested.
- On social media, share relevant information that you learned at the conference.
We hope you found this guide to conferences helpful. Fear not, attending a conference doesn’t have to turn you into an anxious, nervous, and confused wreck. Prepare ahead of time and you’ll be ready to rock your next marketing conference or event!
Have some suggestions of your own? Share with us in the comments below!