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Building Your Business Development Game Plan for your next Conference

There is a conference just around the corner and everyone is starting to turn their attention to where it’s being held.  Conferences and conventions in general are an effective and exhilarating way to network with people who share your goals, or are willing to pay you to make their goals a reality.  

We have put together a guide that you can follow for these conferences.  It is broken up into 3 main parts, with elements below each part to give it clarity.


one

Set aside time to prepare for the conference.

  • Research the conference. Understand the size, layout, activities and who will be attending.
  • KE3 is just around the corner and everyone is starting to turn there attention to the LA Convention Center.  Conferences and conventions in general are an effective and exhilarating way to network with people who share your goals, or are willing to pay you to make their goals a reality.  E3 is fantastic for this as all of the industry’s major players will be in town that week.
  • now where you are going and what you are doing. Establish these goals early and consider creating back-up plans in case something goes awry (such as an event is cancelled, or a talk you wanted to see is full).
  • Maximize each trip by seeking secondary opportunities. For example, use EventBrite to look for parties and events that could be good for networking.
  • Research the companies and individuals you are meeting. Know their names and try to find a picture of what they look like, if possible (LinkedIn is a good resource). Get an idea of how their company makes money, then try to anticipate what their needs or pain points will be. Brainstorm ideas for how you could solve their problems.
  • Send confirmation emails for all meetings. Include the location, the time, pictures of the meeting spot if possible, and the best way to get in touch with you (typically a cell phone number). Specify if texting is okay because the convention floor can often be noisy and make voice calls difficult or awkward (“hold on, hold on, okay, I’m outside and can hear you now” is neither a fun nor a professional way to greet a potential customer).
  • Include contact information on your calendar and print out a hard copy. It’s always a great idea to have backup in case your digital devices fail or run out of battery.
  • Test your cell phone reception. Go to the convention site beforehand to test voice calls and connectivity in the areas where you’ll be spending the most time.
  • Consider how much data you will be using on your smartphone. It’s better to pay for extra bandwidth ahead of time rather than racking up a whole day’s worth of overage fees.

two

While at the conference, your main goal is to acquire information!

  • Network! Don’t be afraid to say hello and introduce yourself. You never know when a casual conversation about that morning’s keynote could turn into a business lead.
  • Hand out your business cards. You’re almost sure to get them in return.
  • Pay attention to where the good parties are. Remember that good does not necessarily mean open bar. Consider what sort of crowd will offer you the most leads. A loud DJ could kill your opportunities for networking if no one can hear you.
  • Pick up conference guides, magazines, and flyers. You can peruse them during down time at the end of the day, or on your flight home.
  • Prioritize forming new contacts and relationships over education. Larger conferences often videotape talks and put them online for viewing after the conference has ended. However, the opportunity to make connections with business partners or new clients has to be done during the conference. The exception to this rule is the conference keynote. Make time to attend or at least find a summary of what was said. Since so many people attend these presentations, it’s easy to strike up a conversation about it later while networking.
  • Reach out for meetings on the ground. You could tweet a general blast that you’re looking for certain types of opportunities, or text a personalized message to a high-priority business lead.
  • Maximize your time but know your limits. You will make a sour impression during a meeting if you’re stumbling over words and bleary eyed from lack of sleep, or constantly checking the time because you overbooked yourself and are already late for your next meeting.
  • Be agile. Have a plan of action if someone cancels or doesn’t show up to a meeting. Use your cloud calendar to move and arrange meetings on the fly.

three

After the conference, complete these seven steps to bring your business development strategy full circle.

Week One:

  1. Input all your business cards into LinkedIn and your CRM.
  2. Extend invitations to all parties on LinkedIn.
  3. Update your CRM with any new information, such as interests, upcoming RFPs, meeting notes, and information about client objectives and needs.
  4. Immediately follow up on all hot prospects.

Week Two:

  1. Follow up with all remaining contacts from the show.
  2. Move forward on any action items from meetings.
  3. Input all data or knowledge gleaned from the show into your CRM for future reference.

Conferences are some of the few times a year you get to spend face time with your clients and potential partners.  Make sure you dedicate the time to do it right and it will pay big dividends down the road.

January 30th, 2017