After leaving a recent major industry event, I had multiple conversations with attendees who marveled at the number of vendors and foot traffic in the exhibit hall but then confided that, off the floor and away from the bustle, they really couldn’t differentiate them. One attendee summarized it well, “Even after listening to the pitches, I walked away unable to really tell what they could do and unable to tell how they were different from the five other vendors that seemed like them.”
If those words hit a little too close to home as you stumble out of conference season, shielding your eyes from the bright lights of reality and nursing a pounding headache as you attempt to calculate an ROI, we’ve got a post-conference hangover remedy for you:
Start with an honest assessment
You can’t make an improvement plan if you don’t have a realistic understanding of where things stand. Debrief after each event and ask yourself the basics like:
- Did you meet the goals you set for the event(s)? (Did you set goals?!)
- Where did the team shine?
- Where did they falter?
Don’t wait until the end of the conference season when important details are likely forgotten. Pull the team together, if even for a quick recap, after each individual event and be sure to document it. Also, consider extending the assessment process to attendees who stopped by your booth or listened to your presentation. While not every conversation turns into a lead, they can bring other value to your organization.
It’s easy to slide from conference craziness back into the everyday reality of your role. Before you know it, 2 weeks have gone by and those leads are still sitting in your pipeline, untouched. Conference follow-up should be an organizational priority. If you’re investing money in an event, you should maximize your ROI with a comprehensive follow-up plan (including KPIs). Make sure the plan exists before the event happens so everyone knows what’s expected of them once they’re back in the office.
Invest in your staff
Tally all your event expenses from collateral, sponsorship fees, booth paraphernalia and T&E expenses and add in time spent preparing for the event including content creation. Now, calculate how much time and money you invested in training and preparing your onsite staff.
If you’re not investing in your staff to make sure
they are fully prepared for the event, you’re setting
them up to fail and wasting your money.
The power of events is in the personal connections made and conversations held. Make sure that all onsite staff understand how they bring value to your target customers, remain on message and enthusiastically advocate for the company.
Reassess your overall strategy
Why did you choose the events you attended this year? How did you decide whether to sponsor or simply walk the halls? If, “We’ve always gone to that one” is your answer, it’s time to reassess. A conference strategy should be a strategic component of a broader marketing and sales strategy. If you find yourself coming up short of expectations after this year’s season, it may be time to reevaluate your overall strategy (or create one if it doesn’t exist).