As an ad sales executive, conferences are a “no-brainer” way to meet prospects.
Whether you are attending a training event, participating as a vendor, sponsor or even if your company is hosting the event, there are always great opportunities to meet new advertisers or enhance an existing relationship.
With so much potential for a huge ROI, it only makes sense to make sure you spend your time as strategically as possible. Here are MediaRadar’s top 8 tips for making the next conference your most advantageous one to date:
1. Design Your Mission
Look up the attendees and determine if you have any known prospects or clients that will be in attendance. Also, reach out to your current prospect list and ask if they are attending this valuable event.
If so, let them know you will be at the event, schedule some time to catch up and determine if your new offerings are a fit for their changing business.
Use this roster as a prospect list to figure out which other attendees make sense for your business. Then you can be on the lookout for them during the event.
If it is a big event, print out a target list that includes photos to review in advance of the event. This helps me find my prospects in the crowd.
2. More Peanuts, Please
Networking can start before you even arrive.
It’s very possible that you’ll run into one or more fellow conference attendees en route to the event location, whether at the airport, on the flight or train. No matter the size of the conference, people traveling to the same venue so often have overlapping itineraries.
We recommend requesting the middle seat on the plane.
Before you roll your eyes, think about it.
This gives you twice the odds of a productive connection than if you sit on the aisle or by the window. (Plus, you get to use both arm rests.)
3. Let’s Lunch
Once you are at the event, never eat only with coworkers or alone.
Don’t think of breaks in the program as a time to catch up on emails or have a team update. This is prime networking time!
Always eat with people you don’t know in an open-seating venue. And like the airplane, sit where you can converse with more than one person.
4. Be Social
Attend the pre and post-function gatherings, cocktail receptions – everything.
Yes, we are all tired after a full day of sessions, but these planned networking events are great places to make connections. Conversing in a setting that can be more casual and relaxed often leads to more sincere connections.
Remember, most people at the event are in the same boat as you: They want to meet new people. Taking a half step out of the purely professional spaces is a great place to unwind and even reflect on some personal key takeaways with some new faces
4. Be Prepared
Never, ever, ever run out of business cards.
Bring lots. If you need this explained, you’re in the wrong business.
Keep a stack in every piece of luggage you own. Don’t give yourself a chance to forget them!
6. Deliver the Hook
Have a very short compelling statement about how you can help your prospects solve their problems.
While this is an “elevator pitch”, no one really cares what you do; prospects want to know that you can help them.
Take the time to create a few versions. During small talk you can learn enough about your prospect to determine which one to use to capture their attention.
7. Be an Early Bird
Go to the breakout sessions 15 minutes early. You’ll be the only one in the room… with the speaker.
This can be a great way to network one-on-one with industry leaders, consultants, and people you might not otherwise get an opportunity to meet.
8. Be a Connector
If you know someone that a fellow attendee is trying to meet, provide an email introduction after the conference.
This positions you as a valuable resource within your industry. The people you introduce will be more likely to return the favor in the future, and make introductions on your behalf to potential prospects.
And most importantly, ask the most powerful question there is: “How can I help you?” You immediately convey that elusive “it’s not about me; it’s about you” approach to making professional connections. Too often “amateur networkers” are only thinking how people might help them.
If you ask how you can help someone that you’ve just met, you immediately build rapport. Plus, most often their natural response after they’ve answered, is to return the favor and ask, “How can I help you?”
Thus, a valuable contact is born.
Attend your next conference with the list of event attendees, your prospect wish list, and business cards in hand. From the time you set foot on the plane, to leaving the convention center or hotel, always be networking. Make a lasting impression on new connections, and nurture existing relationships to surpass your sales goals.