When it comes to sponsoring and attending B2B marketing events, last month was by far our busiest month yet, and there are no signs of slowing down. We have tried some non-traditional marketing strategies at major conferences, hosted our own events, and definitely learned a lot about how to maximize value.
We just got back from SiriusDecisions’ first ever Tech Exchange in San Francisco and wanted to share some of our learnings.
Here are the six steps we take to get the most out of our time at B2B marketing conferences.
Step 1. Plan ahead
Get your schedule worked out in advance. Start with the goals you want to achieve and build it out from there. Make sure both your goals and schedule are ambitious, but realistic -- yawning your way through a keynote or networking break is no way to maximize your time.
Most B2B conferences make speaker and sponsor lists available, but it’s also important to identify which attendees you’d like to meet, which can take a bit more detective work (see Step 2). Make a rank list of people to meet, keynotes to attend, and topics to dive into. If you have to miss something at the bottom of your list to make it to something at the top, so be it.
If you have specific prospects in mind who you know are going to be in attendance, reach out in advance and let them know you’ll be there, too.
Step 2. Use social media to find the right people, places, and activities:
Follow and stay on top of the event hashtag (for example: #SDTechX), before and throughout the conference. Attendees will often post something hinting at their attendance, so if you follow the hashtag, you’ll have a better idea of who will be at the event and what they are excited about.
During the event, keep track of who is doing what, where they will be, and what’s on the agenda for the rest of the event. If you’re hoping to connect with someone in particular, figure out what’s important to them for a built-in ice breaker when you do “run into” them.
Step 3. Go to the special events and activities
When a conference gives you a chance to show your skills, network, and have some fun, you have to take it! SiriusDecisions hosted the TechX Games, a chance to show off your B2B marketing skills. So instead of going to even more happy hours, we enjoyed our competitive spirit and did something different.
Don’t take it from me though, take it from his Airness Michael Jordan: “Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.”
Activities like this are a great way to spontaneously and naturally make connections that will stand out far greater than the often monotonous networking happy hours.
Step 4. EAT
If you’re from outside of the city, (or in it for that matter) treat yo’self to some delicious cuisine in the host city. Or, even better, talk to a local at the conference and go check out a recommended spot. It’s a great conversation starter and something people love to talk about.
Step 5. Learn
Conferences can quickly be overshadowed by trying to seal deals, make connections, and come back to the office with provable ROI so you can go again next year :) While of course this is important, don’t forget to come out of the sessions/keynotes, networking events, special activities, and happy hours with some knowledge, new ideas, and progressive attitude to bring into the new year.
Step 6: Follow up and stay connected
I don’t know about you, but I always come away from these events energized and excited to put what I learned into action. Don’t let that energy just fade away -- follow up with the people you’ve met, schedule a meeting to debrief your team so that they can learn too, and leverage the post-conference high.
Follow us on Twitter -- @bizible -- to find out where we'll be next!