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Beyond the Badge Scanner: How to Get More Out of a Conference

Heading to Dreamforce this week? We’ve got some tips on how to make lasting connections.

“May I scan your badge?” Anyone who has attended or exhibited at a conference knows that phrase all too well. Nowadays, some argue that a visitor to an exhibit space becomes a piece of data, something to be scanned and logged. It has become such a routine habit that it is an encumbrance to both the sales team and potential clients visiting your booth.

While scanning badges gives you data, this data can’t replace the value of a real human connection. If you’re about to get on the road this conference season like us, we’ve put together a list of ways on how you can get the biggest ROI from each event — AND walk away with lasting connections.

Contact Potential Clients Before the Conference

Most conferences allow exhibitors access to mail and email lists for registered attendees. Utilize this information as a way to stir up interest in your company beforehand. Remember, however, that a lot of companies do the same thing, so make your message stand out.

Network With Influencers

The trade show floor can be vast, intimidating space for conference attendees. Utilize the pre-show breakfasts, evening events and other networking opportunities to meet with the key individuals who can become fans of your service.

Get Social!

Most conferences have an established conference hashtag to use for trending tweets and Facebook posts. Send out some casual and informational tweets relevant to the theme of the conference, but don’t take a direct “ask for business” approach. A hashtag can be used as a real-time tool to get people following your tweets and posts and viewing you as a credible information source.

Try to Leave With One New Partnership

For some exhibitors, it’s all about the numbers. If they scanned “x” amount of people, they feel as though the expense and time for the event was justified. However, what’s to say those numbers will turn into customers? It’s not always quantity over quality. Instead, make it a goal to leave with one new relationship. If you have built a good rapport with a potential client, drop everything and take them to dinner. Nurture the relationship from the beginning and the results could be a worthy investment.

Talk to Potential Clients

This one may seem obvious, but it’s important to talk to them while you have their attention at your booth. Because once they leave your booth, they are bombarded with information. Make sure the conversation you had stands out in their mind once they’re back home.

Know When to Walk Away

Not everyone who stops by is going to become a business relationship. If you sense that a conversation is going nowhere, or your services are not a good fit for them, politely cut the conversation short.

Blog About Your Experience at the Event

Build thought leadership by blogging about your experience at the event. This can also be a source for people who couldn’t attend.

Approach Other Vendors as Potential Clients

Just because the main audience is conference attendees, don’t forget about vendors as potential customers as well. During sessions, or during a slow time in the exhibit hall, take a walk around and make contacts within the exhibitors. At minimum, you will have made another contact in the industry. At most, you could have a new client.

Have Something That Draws a Crowd

Giving away freebies are a time-honored tradition at conferences. Otherwise, your booth may appear boring compared to all of the rows and rows of giveaways across the conference hall floor. A good tip is to have something unusual that isn’t easily identifiable. It makes people want to come by and ask about it, which is a natural conversation starter. Better yet, some of these items can be pretty inexpensive.

It’s OK to Have Fun

Conference attendees have most likely been on their feet all day, and probably will be all evening as well. Having a chair, or a lounge-style setup at your booth, can provide a huge incentive. It also makes for a more casual environment, where potential clients may be less intimidated.

Identify Your Brand and What You Do

Conferences and trade shows are not the place to be too edgy and cryptic about your brand. This is the time to be “out there” and have plenty of signage and materials to back it up. For example, having a sign with simply your brand name and logo may seem intriguing to some, but it will most likely turn others off, as they don’t want to be perceived as ignorant for not knowing about the company. Put it all out there.

Get Feedback From Attendees

The best information can be gleaned from those who have attended the conference and visited your booth. Take a number of contacts made and send a follow-up email with a survey inside. Take that feedback so you can improve at future events.

Thinking outside the booth, can help you replace the “May I scan your badge” mentality, and into a way of communicating that generates revenue; not just leads.

How do you stand out at events? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

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