How to Get the Most Out of Industry Events
Industry events are the business world’s equivalent of an amusement park vacation. They are pricey, time-consuming, and chockablock with crowds of people desperate to prove the experience isn’t a complete waste.
Then after spending all that time, energy, and money, you’re put in the unenviable position of justifying the decision to go. It’s a lot of pressure!
But like any amusement park vacation, the worth of an industry event is found in your mindset and approach. Here’s how to get the most of your next event.
Rethink return on investment (ROI)
When calculating an industry event’s return on investment, we typically look to the quantifiable. How many business cards did I collect? Social media followers gained? Successful sales pitches? While these events can lead to quantifiable gains, few people are there to be sold to.
Instead, shift your focus to the qualitative. Do you want to position yourself as a leading voice in your industry? Discover professional growth opportunities? Cultivate relationships? Such ROI are harder to quantify, but they are more conducive to the social atmosphere of many industry events.
Create an industry theme
Develop a theme based on your desired ROI. It doesn’t have to be complicated; a word or two will do. Think education, networking, outreach, improved visibility, and so on.
If you’re attending as a group, you can craft a group theme or go a la carte. At the event, use your numbers to spread out and cover as much ground as possible. This maximizes the company’s investment as you can teach each other what you learned.
Plan around the theme
Say your theme is education. Then you’ll want to prioritize lectures and sessions. Look for events on subjects that interest you or build critical skills. Research speakers beforehand so you can ask pointed, well-thought out questions.
But if your theme is networking, you’ll want to prioritize social events and locate socializing hot spots. If it’s visibility, try to secure a role as a speaker or workshop facilitator.
Be sure to plan with the agenda and a map of the conference space. You don’t want to schedule two sessions that require you to hoof a few football field’s worth of conference hall in five minutes.
The plans of mice and attendees
Industry events fluctuate. Sessions are canceled, keynote Q-and-As run overtime, and the unexpected should be expected. If your plans become upended, let your theme guide you.
If a session isn’t what you thought, don’t feel bad about ducking out and trying something else. If you scheduled a workshop but find yourself in a promising conversation, stay and network. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to sit, have a drink, and organize your new notes.
And if an unforeseen opportunity presents itself, seize it!
To tweet or not to tweet?
Should you engage with social media during the event? Again, let your theme guide you.
If your theme is outreach, then an industry event pairs wonderfully with social media. You can craft content by live-tweeting events or recapping what you learned. You can reach out during the event to set up meet-and-greets or join the larger conversation through hashtags.
Conversely, if your theme is education or in-person networking, you may want to put away the phone. Social media can be a huge distraction, and both those goals require you to be present in the moment.
Discovering your ROI
The first thing to do after an industry event? Chill. Take a personal day to relax and ease back into normalcy.
Next, organize your gains. Collect your notes, transfer any new prospects into your CRM, and follow up with new contacts by sending a friendly, personalized message. Then pay it forward by teaching what you learned.
This step helps you assess ROI in relation to your theme. The overload of an industry event can make it difficult to analyze your gains. By taking the time to catalog it all, you see the evidence and understand the value these events bring to you and your company.