Is This The Best Way To Approach Industry Conferences?


I’ve deemed November conference month here at question: What is a proposal?

I think this will either give people some great ideas about how and why to attend industry conferences or it will start an entirely new conversation about conferences.

The topic of industry conferences is a divisive one. For example, my views on industry conferences probably fly in the face of everything you’ve been told and/or everything you believe.

I want start with a quick primer on how I approach conference attendance. The differences between what I do and what other people do might seem subtle. However, based on my observation, I feel the differences are quite extreme.

Approach conference attendance however you see fit. But just for information’s sake, here is how I have had success bringing in work and opportunities at these conferences.

Before The Conference

  1. Get tickets to the site visits before hand. They are very popular and the people you’ll want to meet will probably attend.

At The Conference

  1. In general, when I talk to people my goal is to come away with ideas for something valuable I can give each person I meet (an article, a piece of information, a book, a gift, an introduction to someone, help with a challenge, etc.)
  2. I sit with a different group of people each meal. I learn as much as you can about them and get their card.
  3. I hang out in between sessions. I go up and talk to anyone standing by themselves. I ask them which sessions they have attended and what they thought.
  4. At social events, people will congregate into groups. I remind myself that I’m a man not a mouse, throw caution to the wind, and try to insert myself into the conversation.
  5. I am not above taking competitor’s marketing information.
  6. I rarely take people out to dinner, I don’t buy drinks, and generally I don’t drink at business events. But if I do, I’ll milk one or two beers the entire night.
  7. In general, I avoid booths and talking it up with competitors.

At The Sessions

  1. I attend every session. I take notes at every one. Then I tweet interesting things I hear.
  2. I go up to the speakers after each session and introduce myself. I get their card and ask about what they do.
  3. I listen closely to audience questions. If they are dealing with issues we have expertise in, I introduce myself after the session.
  4. I make sure to attend any roundtable discussions at the conference. You learn some interesting stuff there.

After The Conference

  1. I send a personal email to every person I met.
    • I find their contact info If I don’t have it.
    • I send each of them a personal gift, which I have identified by now.
    • I follow-up on any needs they might have.
  2. I also write down ideas for articles we can do, usually based on things people said at the roundtable discussion.
  3. I wait two months and follow-up again with an email to people I met.

80% of my efforts are after the conference and 20% of my efforts are at the conference.

Do you think my approach to conference attendance is genius or just plain stupid? Let us know by leaving a comment!

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