If you’re a modern startup, you need to be attending as many conferences as possible.
Sure, social media and your digital presence certainly matter.
That being said, the face-to-face relationships you make are arguably your most important. From customers and partners to someone who might eventually invest or acquire your business, no startup can afford to be an island.
And if nothing else, conferences are a fantastic place to scope out competitors and get a better pulse on your industry.
Of course, it’s not as simple as signing up for a slew of conferences or events and just showing up. Planning is absolutely key to making the most of any conference, especially if your long-term goal is growth.
But what exactly do you need to do to crush any given conference? Good question! We’ve put together a six-point checklist to make sure you have everything in order before you go out in the wild.
Mind Your Marketing Materials
Putting your brand front-and-center in-person are what conferences are all about. Now is the time to roll out the big guns that will cement your brand and its creativity in the minds of competitors and potential customers alike.
For example, custom retractable banners for events can help give your business eye-popping appeal to passers-by. Of course, there are also conference staples such as business cards and stickers that people can quickly grab that’ll keep your business fresh in their minds.
Ask yourself: what are you doing to get more eyes on your business and how are you making sure those same folks remember you?
Collect Attendees’ Email Addresses
Conferences are more about just being there.
They represent some of the most valuable networking events for startups, granted you don’t overlook the importance of collecting people’s information.
Case in point, conferences are a prime place to growing your email list and collect contact information. Rather than require a business card or in-person sign-up, an opt-in popped open on a tablet is a prime place to invite attendees to drop you a line.
Look the Part
First impressions at conferences are make-or-break, just as they are at any business event.
And while you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, it’s never a bad idea to double-check the dress code expectations of the conference you’re attending.
For example, you don’t want to show up at a suit-and-tie affair in jeans and a t-shirt. Likewise, some startups might go the extra mile to coordinate outfits or wear something thematic based on their brand (think: colors based on your company logo).
Check the Guest List
Time is tight at most conferences. As such, you need to know who the big players attending are and how you’re going to allocate your time to see them.
This might mean dividing and conquering among your team to ensure you’re taking notes at essential talks or getting in front of the right influencers. Based on the event schedule, you can come up with your own internally to understand how everyone on your team attendees will divvy up their time.
Give a Talk
You might not be able to speak your mind at every conference you attend, but hosting a talk yourself is an immediate way to make you startup seem like a million bucks.
Giving an effective presentation is an artform in and of itself that’ll take some practice, so it’s worth running some “test-drives” at smaller events before stepping on the proverbial big stage. That said, having the confidence to speak to your audience in such a setting should be an achievable goal for any startup worth their salt.
Document Your Experience via Social Media
Conferences represent an absolute treasure trove of content for social media. The more active you are both before, during and after the conference, the more valuable attention you can get on your business.
For example, you can use your event’s hashtag on Twitter and Instagram and mingle with fellow attendees to hype the event.
During the event itself, you can publish live updates, Instagram Stories and Facebook Live videos to show that you’re in on the action.
Finally, you can publish takeaways and blog posts after the event to sum up the experience and highlight others in attendance. This sort of content signals that you’re an active player in your industry and are capable of breaking your own news.
There are a million moving pieces to any given conference, but these steps are arguably the most important for making a strong impression and scoring an ROI for your in-person marketing. No matter what your industry might be or what sort of conferences you’re attending, all of these tips are totally fair game.