Do You Suck At Conferences?

Conferences, let’s talk about them. They are expensive, but many people swear by them. They explain that it’s a great opportunity to meet potential clients from all over the country. Much more cost effective then flying out to meet with each of those people.

I’ve been to two conferences in the last couple months. One resulted in a contract and the other resulted in a tremendous publicity opportunity for my firm. So why am I such a naysayer about conferences? Ok, I’ll explain it to you.

Marketers at conferences tend to be lazy and careless. They accept the notion that if you walk away from a conference with no tangible benefit it’s still a worthwhile effort because of all the great relationships you made. Hogwash!!

But wait a minute Matt, it’s not like you meet someone at a conference and never talk to them again! Don’t even try that on me. That’s exactly what you do.

Except for the rare exception, Marketers don’t systematically and legitimately follow-up with people they meet at conferences. It’s nice to think they do, but they don’t. At best the cards get scanned. Most likely they get thrown in a drawer with a pile of other cards.

That’s right, the majority of marketers going to conferences are just playing a game of business card collection. And that’s just a waste of time. It’s lazy and unproductive.

Let’s look at this issue from a different angle. Say I spend $5,000 to fly to Hawaii and go on a date with a beautiful woman. We have a wonderful date, we hug, and then I fly home to Philadelphia. Once I’m home, I tell all my buddies about this great “relationship” I now have. What’s their reaction?

Naturally, they tell me I’m an idiot. Because one date does not constitute a relationship. And the $5,000 expense makes it that much more idiotic. Yet, everybody says they are “building relationships” at these conferences.

Let’s discuss drinking. Not once have I found myself preparing for a client meeting and subsequently deciding that my best course of action was to get drunk. But at a conference, this is exactly what people do, “bond” while getting drunk. Does that even make sense? I don’t really believe there is anything you can accomplish while drunk, at least nothing good.

Let’s talk about sessions. Does anybody go up to presenters after a session to introduce themselves? I was at a Construction Owners Association Conference. Let me repeat that, a conference of construction owners. Guess who walked up to the owners after their presentations…nobody.

So next time you are thinking about attending a conference, sit down and write down a list of tangible things you need to get from this conference to make it worthwhile.

Am i way off base? Share your opinion in the comments!

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