Attending events in your field allows you to build professional connections, expand your knowledge base and serves as an opportunity to generate content for your business.
There are infinite ways to extract value from event attendance, whether it be through building connections with professional peers, refining your knowledge in an area of interest, or using your attendance as a catalyst for producing content for your blog or social. Stepping out of the office and into a room bursting with other industry leaders allows you to establish credibility by showing dedication to refinement and professional growth. But if all you’re doing is showing up to the event, you’re leaving a lot of opportunity on the table. To unlock an event’s full potential, we have 5 simple steps to follow.
To put these steps into context, we’ll integrate some examples from our recent trip to Las Vegas to attend the sprawling innovation and technology showcase known as CES.
Step 1 – pre-planning
Pre-planning for event attendance is more than booking flights and securing a hotel within walking distance to the convention center. Announce to the world that you’re attending this awesome event: push it on social media to gain some attention and establish connections with other potential attendees.
Offer your followers the chance to follow along with your experience. Other than setting yourself up to gain traction on your social sites, you’re also showing your current and potential clients that you’re devoted to excellence outside the office. Meet with your internal marketing team prior to your departure to set goals, establish communication best practices and determine who is accountable for producing content. Be sure to establish:
- How many social media posts should be devoted to the event?
- Who are the presenters at the event and how can they be tagged on social media?
- Should our presence serve as a means of informing our audience on event topics (i.e. quotes) or should it be focused on building our own voice (our thoughts on the content, pictures, gifs, etc)
— Spyder Trap (@spyder_trap) January 3, 2017
Step 2 – client relationship building; assess networking opportunities
As part of step one, you should plan out who you want to talk to or meet. Use conference attendance as an opportunity to share passions and interests with your clients in a setting that isn’t the office. Your clients are attending for the same reasons you are—to emerge as thought-leaders and to network until their business cards run out.
Take the time to reach out to your clients beforehand and use the in-person facetime to build your relationship. Also see this as an opportunity to expand each other’s networks. Generate opportunities by extending your hand and making the introduction and your client might be inclined to do the same for you. Show interest in the people you meet and don’t try to sell yourself at every turn: keep the conversation authentic and offer relevant insights when the timing is right. The conversations you have don’t always have to be about work; invite your client out for happy hour or lunch to establish rapport.
Step 3 – industry trend IMMERSION
The main goal for most employees at an industry event is continuing education. You go hear other experts in your field speak to improve your own skill-set. Now you might be thinking; “what can’t I learn from an industry blog post, or whitepaper, or book that I can learn at a conference?” The answer is simple: you can utilize those sources to keep up on industry trends. But they lack the ability to engage and interact on an in-depth level.
When you’re at a conference or workshop, you’re there in real time, with real opportunities to engage with experts directly; and face to face connections tend to be stronger than those fostered via a phone call or on social media. You can’t ask a whitepaper a question specific to your own job—or any question for that matter. We love digital, but human connection is still essential to growth.
Additionally, conference topics generally encapsulate what’s going on in your industry right now, and how it’s evolving. New topics are constantly being introduced at events because organizers know that interacting with fellow industry professionals gives them a leg up on the competition.
— Jon M Lenz (@JmLenz) January 6, 2017
Step 4 – have some fun
Naturally. If you’re not having fun, you’re not engaged. Lack of engagement shows – it’s apparent to those around you. So, while taking detailed notes and corresponding with your internal marketing team is important, don’t forget to put your phone on silent for a short while and absorb the information being presented. Take photos, ask questions and allow the excitement of being in a space of like-minded career professionals to bring new energy to one or more of your passions.
Step 5 – post event follow-up
Extracting value from an event doesn’t end after the moderator says, “Thanks for showing up” and dropping the mic. After you’ve tweeted some fabulous photos and quotes, bring back what you’ve learned and conduct a post-mortem or debrief with your manager and internal marketing team. Walk them through the event ask these questions:
- What aspects of the event were valuable to you professionally?
- What were some areas you thought could have been improved?
- What opportunities arose and which fell flat?
- Was the event beneficial for your professional growth?
- How can our business flourish due to our attendance? Did we cover the event as well as we could have?
Once you’ve addressed these questions and identified key areas of value, it doesn’t take a ton of extra effort to take notes from the event and convert them into a full-fledged blog post. As long as the topic is applicable to your audience, sharing your insights will show that thought-leadership is in your wheelhouse. And hey, why not establish your credibility in your industry while you’re at it? Add your own spin on the information that was presented in a way that makes you the owner of the content you absorbed. Need an example?
Here’s a shameless plug for a previous blog post we wrote after attending an event in case you need inspiration.
After all is said in done, you can start to implement new ideas or takeaways from the conference or workshop into a project or business strategy. Start to reach out to clients or connections you made while at the event to strengthen relationships. Keep in contact with the industry experts you met and assess how you can take what you learned and implement it into your own work. Regardless of what you’re hoping to get out of event, conference or workshop attendance, know that there is always value in stepping outside your cubicle and learning something new.