How to Get the Most Out of Writing, Blogging and Marketing Conferences

 
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As anyone who attends industry events on a regular basis knows, conferences can get pricey-- and sometimes the price doesn't feel all that worth it.

I know this myself, since the first marketing conference I ever attended years ago (which shall remain nameless) ended up being completely underwhelming. I hadn't learned much I didn't already know, I didn't have much fun, and meeting people there proved difficult. There was only one person I really hit it off with. Over the years, we kept in touch and checked in every so often, but always more on a friend basis than professional one.

Between airfare, hotel costs and the price of the event itself, it's understandable to begin to question whether or not conferences are truly worth your time and money. Yet, if you're tactical in your planning, networking and follow-ups, I'm confident you can make even the most poorly organized conferences worthwhile. That friend I mentioned earlier? We did finally end up collaborating on a project that made three times the cost of the original conference ticket.

Here are six creative tips to getting the biggest bang for your buck at the next conference you attend.

1. Rethink your approach to conferences.

In order to get the most value out of a conference, or any industry event, you must begin to re-frame the way you think about "return on investment" as it relates to these events. 

Simply put, you need to start thinking of a conference more like a cocktail party and less like a sales pitch. Know that unless you strike gold as a speaker or attendee, you aren't going to get immediate sales or cash coming in from the people you meet with. At a cocktail party, you're there to have fun and network with people who have similar interests as you do. With networking, the point is to see where you can add value to them in hopes they will one day return the favor. 

Don't get caught up in the number of email subscribers you gain from the conference or sales you close at your booth. Instead, think about the quality of relationships you built there and how, no matter how far off it may be, you can do business with the people you meet.

2. Document your experience across social media.

Conferences are absolute treasure troves when it comes to social media content, yet very few individuals seem to take full advantage of this opportunity. From live tweeting the tips and tricks you've learned from notable speakers, to posting Instagram Stories documenting your conference experience, to hosting a Facebook Live session interviewing a noteworthy attendee-- the potential content you can create is endless. Conference material is particularly refreshing as it practically writes itself.

3. Engage with other attendees on social media.

In between workshops or during lunch breaks, search through those who have tweeted using the conference hashtag and engage with them. Follow them and get to know what their interests are. You can even set up a lunch or an evening drink with them to explore potential collaborations or just make a new industry friend.

4. Research speakers beforehand.

When approaching conference speakers to chat, what better conversation starter is there than one that asks a specific, well-thought-out question related to the work the person has done? 

People want to know their work is being circulated and understood, and if you can show them you admire their work in an authentic, truthful manner, you'll be much more likely to build a meaningful relationship with them. 

5. Schedule lunch or drinks with speakers or attendees.

In much the same way as listed above, if you'd like to get to know conference speakers on a more intimate level, then being proactive and gritty is key. To start, reach out to the conference speakers you'd like to connect with two or three weeks before the event. Tell them what you enjoy about their work and why you'd love to take them out for lunch or for drinks. 

6. Write a blog recap.

Similar to social media content, any writer knows how cumbersome it can be to consistently drum up original, helpful blog post ideas. Because of this, why not make it easy for yourself by writing a recap of your experience at the conference? Once you publish it on your own website, republish it on platforms like Medium to gain additional exposure and views. 

Here's the deal: it's true that many conferences aren't what you expected them to be, whether they're a dud when you thought it would be a terrific event or vice versa. That being said, by applying these tips, you'll be able to get the bang for your buck at almost any conference or industry event.