An Entrepreneur's Guide To Surviving Conference Season
Benjamin Franklin once quipped that “...in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” In business, this very much holds true with one significant addition: conferences.
At some point in their career, just about every professional will attend or present at a conference.
For some, conference life is just part of the job, but for many people they represent a rare opportunity to get out of the office, network, and gain new perspective.
It's important, however, to recognize that conferences are only as valuable as you make them.
I’ve attended my fair share of conferences in my time and have learned a thing or two about what (and what not) to d
Refine your message
First and foremost, it's important to remember that everyone at a conference is there to sell something.
Everyone is going to be inundated with pitches of one kind or another, and it's vitally important to make sure that the message you're delivering is short, sweet, and impactful.
Be exceptionally clear in articulating the story of what your product does and the value it brings. Conferences aren't the right venue to explore new messages or sales pitches. You want to keep things pithy and impactful, and that means sticking with a refined and tested pitch.
Remember that you only have a 30 second window to catch someone's attention, so make it count.
Make an impression
Here's the thing about conferences: they tend to be sort of boring, especially if they're industry-specific. People and pitches blend together, and it's easy to become just another face in the crowd.
That's a huge problem for teams looking to grow their business development pipeline, as the cost of attending a conference can be astronomical. How do you get around this? It's simple: be memorable.
Anyone who has met me at conferences or seen me on TV knows that I'm a bit of a bow tie aficionado. My bow ties and penchant for colorful pants (thanks Bonobos) have become a trademark of sorts, and helps me to stand out in a crowd that otherwise looks entirely homogenous.
Additionally, my team and I always try to make sure that we stand out in how we engage with customers as well. For example, we always hand out unique video books that automatically play when opened.
I've yet to encounter another team that has them, and they always help us to stand out in the memory of attendees.
If you’re going to hoot with the owls, be ready to soar with the eagles
Conferences tend to bring out interesting behavior in people, especially after-hours. After all, they are generally held in exciting locations (Vegas, New Orleans) where drinks flow freely.
This preponderance of free alcohol and the fact that people are outside of their office tend to form a perfect storm of debauchery.
My advice to people presenting at conferences? Steer clear.
There’s an old saying “if you’re going to hoot with the owls at night, you better be ready to soar with the eagles in the morning.”
Now, most of us tend to overestimate our ability to handle a night out, only to be met with deep regret (and a hangover) in the morning.
I’ve seen it too many times. People who overdo it at conferences end up missing out on important sessions and networking opportunities. Once, I even saw an attendee fall asleep at the breakfast table while their boss was eating. Sufficed to say, it was a career-limiting move.
While it’s easy to joke about these things from afar, the lesson is crystal clear: Don’t overdo or you’ll regret it.
Conferences are what you make of them. They can represent a fantastic opportunity to grow your sales pipeline, make powerful connections, and share the story of your brand.
If you remember to keep your sales pitch pithy, be memorable, and manage to behave yourself, you'll be happy with the outcome. If you don't, you might end up with a less-than-stellar experience with a hefty price tag.