Conference season is upon us, sending millions of executives, innovators, investors and media personnel scurrying across the globe. U.S. residents alone logged more than 450 million trips for business purposes in 2016, with 38 percent for meetings and events. That number only continues to grow as mega-events like CES become, well, even more mega.
This year at CES – where thousands of brands kick off their events season in early January – the Consumer Technology Association welcomed more than 3,900 exhibiting companies and over 170 thousand total attendees.
These numbers can feel overwhelming if you are a budding entrepreneur or burgeoning startup, and even more so if you are on a tight budget. The fact is, exhibiting at or even attending a single conference is a sizeable investment, but a worthy one if you are sufficiently armed with the tools and know-how to make the most of your experience.
If you find yourself in either of the above categories – or are simply hoping to streamline your 2018 conference season – read on for our tips and best practices for brands to uplevel and reap the benefits of your conference experiences all year long.
Plan, plan, plan
You have already committed to attending one mega conference. If you are in the process of launching a new product or service, you should be seriously considering – if not already determined – to exhibit. The cost is higher – this year at CES, the general attendee rate started at $100, while space to exhibit for non-members started at $41 per square foot – but certainly worth it if your goals are to strum up media attention and/or strike deals with investors.
- Pro tip – sign up for conference email lists, follow the event on Twitter, set calendar reminders – do whatever you need to do to snag those early bird rates.
Location is everything
Determining where to exhibit – on the conference floor or in a private suite off-site – is another budgetary consideration, but there are pros and cons associated with each option. If your goal is to garner the most attention from media and other attendees, the main floor is the place to be (and, as mentioned above, it will cost you a pretty penny). But your ROI in that instance could include partnering with another brand or, at the very least, sizing up your competition.
However, if your product requires ample set up, large equipment and room to demo – a private suite could be a better and more cost-effective alternative. It might prove more difficult to convince media to pry themselves from the exhibit hall, but offering a private viewing or exclusive first-look could be an enticing draw.
- Pro tip – regardless of your location, be sure to offer food, drink or otherwise free swag. “Free” is always a good incentive – just make sure you’re handing out your business card or other marketing collateral with the goods.
Budgeting for time
We all know that time is money. One would hope that all of the hours, days and weeks that bled into planning will manifest into one, strategically organized, carefully curated media book that meticulously measures your itinerary minute by minute. If you find yourself with such a book, throw it out.
A WINNING media book is one that recognizes that things rarely go according to plan, and budgets in time to accommodate for inevitable mishaps – whether it’s travel delays, broken equipment or forgotten brochures that need to be reprinted. Additionally, a well-thought out interview schedule will include cushions between meetings. Reporters will run late, show up early or stay a little longer than expected. Be flexible enough to accommodate for all instances, as well as unforeseeable events like inclement weather and power outages.
- Pro-tip – pockets of open windows throughout your schedule will allow you to take advantage of “extracurriculars.” For instance, an offer to meet a reporter later in the day for coffee or drinks is a great opportunity to forge or strengthen a new relationship.
Regardless of your goals or budget, the biggest indicator of a successful conference ROI is walking away with the knowledge that you learned something – whether it’s how to rework messaging with your team when you return to the office, which reporter to contact when your product launches or simply, how to do it better next time.
Senior Account Executive
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