Attending trade shows and industry conferences, whether online or on site, can accomplish a lot at once: learning, networking, sharing, and getting leads. However, most trade shows aren’t cheap, and the bigger and better they are, the more expensive they run. Pricing shouldn’t be the only deciding factor, however, and many events offer early bird or group discounts.
A number of criteria may determine an event’s value and possible ROI, and an exhibitor will benefit differently from an attendee. Also consider: who are the speakers, vendors, and attendees? What will you learn? Are there quality lead opportunities? In general, bigger conferences usually involve more time and expense than smaller, local conferences. But no matter the size, the right event can be well worth the investment, with advantages that last long after it’s over.
Keep Up with Your Industry
With today’s fast pace, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest tools, trends, and technologies. Attending a trade show or conference is an efficient way to see, learn and discuss all the latest industry news and developments you may have missed.
It can also be helpful to be exposed to knowledge beyond your normal scope of work, which can sharpen your skill-set and keep you on the cutting edge. Hearing success stories and learning new solutions is also a great way to get motivated enough to implement those valuable takeaways.
Find New Ideas
You never know what might spark a eureka moment at a trade show or conference: a particular panel, a new hot-topic, an innovative product, or an inspiring keynote. A big reason people attend industry events is to generate new ideas. Burnout is real and can have a negative effect on creativity.
No matter the industry, taking a break from your daily routine to hear experts speak about different ideas and challenges, make new connections, and just have fun can get the creative juices flowing again. Approaching work with a fresh eye may be the productivity hack you need.
Network with Industry Peers
There’s a reason why industry events are popular, and it’s not because of all the knowledge being passed around. Trade shows and conferences are (usually) designed to make sure people have a good time! To that end, the best event itineraries provide space for relaxed networking: mix & mingles, happy hours, casual Q & As, and more.
While social media and LinkedIn are effective tools, nothing beats face-to-face networking, and often the most meaningful connections happen in informal settings. Not only is talking shop a good way to learn how other companies manage business, it’s a chance to share support and strengthen relationships.
Most industry events now look more closely at health and safety measures. Use your best judgement when attending events to ensure you not only keep pace with your peers, but also do so in a safe environment.
Meet Experts and Influencers
As they say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. While peer-to-peer connections are valuable, it never hurts to aim even higher when networking. A big draw of many trade shows and conferences is the star attendees: panelists, guest speakers, keynotes, and celebrities.
Most people don’t usually hobnob with industry giants, so these events offer the chance to meet important influencers. Who knows? During small talk, you could discover you both like the Yankees. Later, if and when you follow up (and mention the Yankees), the VIP may be more inclined to remember you ... which also never hurts.
Get Your Company’s Name Out There
Industry trade shows offer an unmatched opportunity to get your name out there. This is especially helpful for new businesses, people who lack social media followings, or awkward self-promoters. Since event attendees are expected to network, newbies feel less strange about it and can gain good experience.
Another effective event strategy is to follow events on social media (many have their own #hashtag). By sharing photos or tweeting out what you learn, you offer useful industry knowledge to your network and boost your brand.
Pro-tip: Expand on social posts later with new content types: blog posts, videos, and more.
Attract Leads & Opportunities
When it comes down to it, everyone hopes they’ll walk away from an event bursting with new leads and opportunities. And while it’s a definite possibility, viewing trade shows and conferences solely as lead magnets can set you up for disappointment.
The most effective approach is to let networking and leads happen naturally, instead of coming on too strong. A handshake, friendly chit-chat, connecting on social, and trading business cards is appropriate, whereas making someone listen to your 30-minute pitch or showing a “real quick” PowerPoint is not.
Interstate Billing Service is looking forward to several upcoming industry events. What’s your favorite part about attending industry events? What has been the biggest benefit of attending events?