PRO TIPS | Making Conferences Pay Off

publication date: Mar 27, 2024
author/source: Brent Barootes

Do you leave every conference you attend saying, “That was worthwhile and a great investment?”

This week, I am at the Sport Event Congress (SEC) for Sport Tourism Canada. Two weeks ago, I was at the WSC® Municipal Sponsorship Summit and soon I will also be attending the Western Canada Fundraising Conference as well as the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (to mention a few).

I often am asked whether conferences are “worth it.” I can honestly say that I get something of value from every conference I attend, but it requires planning and fore thought as to what I am trying to achieve. If I don’t go in with a plan, it will neither be productive nor will it “pay off.”

For the WSC® Municipal Sponsorship Summit last month, I had a several objectives. I delivered a workshop and a keynote address, so it was about sharing knowledge as well as generating leads. Several people came up and chatted with me during the two-day event. We exchanged business cards (yes, I still do that) and I left with a few new friends and leads.

Also at this event, the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists® hosted a reception that allowed me to interact with other delegates and answer questions while everyone networked and shared in a fun social environment. We had several clients attending, so I also connected with them. The conference also allowed me to catch up with industry folks from Canadian municipalities I had not seen in person in a while. Of course, people I knew introduced me to those I did not.

For each of these experiences, I had a plan. I measure success based on quality time spent with others and lead generation. My goal is always to ensure that I deliver insightful, useful and easy to put into practice content for the delegates who attend my sessions. I also want to connect with the decision makers or influencers I know, those we are presently serving, those we are prospecting, and move the needle forward in each case.

Also, I hope to meet those folks we have yet to be able to assist and start the process on how we, as a company, can help them gain better bottom-line ROI and revenue based on their sponsorship marketing investments. The goals are simple. The measurement is simple.

Here are some of the things that I do at conferences to help me achieve my goals:

  • Attend social networking events, be they cocktail parties, dinners, or lunches
  • Sit at tables where I don’t know anyone
  • Bring business cards—yes, that old-fashioned format—but only hand them out if someone asks (I figure if you hand them out like free candy at an elementary school, they will be worthless and unappreciated. Only those who ask get one. I figure they are the people who have an interest in me.)
  • Ask others that I meet for their cards.
  • Send an email or a LinkedIn request to every person I meet (from whom I got a business card) within 48 hours. It is good way to say, “Great to meet you last night and I look forward to seeing you at such-and-such a session tomorrow.”
  • Try to attend all keynote/plenary sessions. Everyone is in the room and also these are the “headliners” like at a music festival. It is typically what you paid for.
  • Attend as many breakout sessions (applicable to me) as possible. If none are applicable, I use the time networking or in my hotel room/lobby area catching up on emails or other work.
  • Schedule face-to-face meetings. If it conflicts with a session I wanted to attend, I go with the one-on-one.
  • Upon arrival, scope out a place to have meetings. I need an area to call “home base” be that a café in the building, or a table in the delegate lounge area.
  • Research the speakers. Attend sessions that will help me be better at my job, or provide knowledge or content that will benefit my clients.
  • Try to say “thank you” to the speakers after their sessions, get their business cards, and then follow up.
  • Try to get a delegate list a few days prior to attending so I can see who is coming. Determine which delegates I want to connect with, and then work to get through that list.

Please share how you measure conference success and ensure the investment in attending was worthwhile! I would be excited to learn other approaches.

For even more great learning and a chance to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Canada’s longest running sponsorship conference visit this link,  WSC® Alberta Forum.

Brent Barootes has spent almost 35 years in the sponsorship marketing industry, developing and delivering profitable sponsorship programs that result in returns on investment for non-profits, charities and other properties and rights holder as well as sponsors. As President and CEO of the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists® he leads a dedicated team of professionals delivering measurable results for their clients.

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