But the real hard work starts when you have picked out your events. In Messente, the three most event-experienced people have attended over 100 events over the years and know how to make the most of them.
These are the 10 keys for successful industry events based on those experiences.
Before the event
1. Have a plan!
80% of the work should be done before the event so make sure you have a clear, simple plan what you want to achieve with the event. Whether it`s getting 10 qualified leads or getting contacts to companies you might need for in the future or meeting up with some customers you might not be able to talk face to face outside industry events.
Think it through and start writing down the names and the companies you know will attend and see if there is some value for you.
2. Do pre-fixed meetings
Once you have narrowed down the list of people and companies you want to talk to start preparing the meetings. Ask for 10-20 minutes of their time in an email before the event so that both of you can prepare and squeeze the maximum out of that short amount of time.
Remember, if you are not good buddies who go back 5 years it`s probably not a good idea to ask for a one hour lunch. People at those events are usually busy and have to spread their time between a lot of meetups so don`t be greedy or you will be declined.
3. Have a good pitch
Once you have scheduled the meetings with the people you want, start looking at what you want to tell them.
A lot of times people just hope to figure this out as they go and it makes some sense - you already know what you and your company are all about so why would you need to prepare it?
In reality, the small 10-minute window you might have with a prospect flies by so fast and if you don`t make a compelling point on why you should take the conversation ahead in the first pitch, you might lose that person forever.
So take an hour or two, write down your “story” and perhaps pitch it to a friend or a co-worker to see how it sounds out loud.
4. Get the attendees list
Some events have a public list of attendees, some don`t, but getting this list can save you a lot of work.
If you already know that the people you want to talk to are attending great, but scanning the list can give you new ideas and potential new contacts so shoot the organizers a quick email asking for the attendees and you will most probably get it.
Contacting them over email or Twitter or LinkedIn can be a good way to say Hi beforehand so they know who you are even if you just bump into them at the after-party.
At the event
5. Meet your best prospect on the first day
It`s a good practice to try to meet your most important prospects on the first day so you can do a follow-up on the second day and keep yourself at the top of their agenda.
You might need to go into more details so the second day is a perfect chance to do so and improve your chances of closing that deal.
6. Don`t rely on WiFi
If you have a presentation or a product demo never rely on event Wifi or even your 3G.
Everyone wants a piece of the WiFi connection so the connection is more likely to be slow or unusable so you definitely don`t want to end up in a situation when the most important part of your pitch is a product demo you can`t show.
Get an offline version of whatever you need to present and load it on your device and back it up on USB dongle to be sure.
Don`t forget to charge your devices, a dead battery can ruin your pitch the same way.
7. Use LinkedIn
Randomly working the crowd going from person to person is very ineffective and you might end up talking to people who have no connections to what your company is all about the whole day.
Meeting new people is fun of course but if you have bigger goals than just having small-talk then look for the right people in the crowd.
This might be easier said than done but LinkedIn, Google and Facebook to “stalk” your prospects so you can recognize them in the crowd. Everyone does it so why shouldn`t you?
After the event
Send an email to all the people you met at the event. If you are a networking wizard this might even mean a hundred or so contacts so a bulk e-mail is perfectly fine.
Thank them for the time they took to talk to you and you will leave a positive impression of yourself. For the contacts that might turn into customers or partners go for the more personalized approach and take the time to think about the next steps.
Propose a follow-up call, give them access to a test account with some credits to get started or agree on the next meeting. A specific call-to-action will keep the ball rolling in the right direction and will prevent from the valuable contact from getting cold.
9. Follow-up Blog post
If your company has a blog write about your experience at the event. This way you can be found at the time people google the event the most and you leave a footprint of yourself even for the coming years.
If you manage to write up a good piece of content you might convince your current or future partners to attend next year and start paving the way for new opportunities.
10. Measure success
Take a look at your pre-event plans and see how you did. How many prospects did you manage to meet? How many meetings ended up with a negotiation or how many contacts turned into customers?
If you started off with clear measurable goals it`s easy to see if you managed to meet, exceed or fail them. Reflect on why did this happen and adjust your plans for the next event accordingly. If you attended just for the after-parties and the free pens and T-shirts then why not count your loot :)
There are a lot more to consider when attending industry events and the preparation list varies if you are attending as a guest or as an exhibitor but the point of this post is - think it through and come up with your own key points you can always turn to when preparing for your next event.