Conferences are an excellent opportunity for companies to gain visibility, make an impression on industry influencers, and develop useful, sharable content that has a life beyond the conference walls. So why do we often treat them like drudgery, or a waste of time?
Whether you’re an executive headlining a session, or a brand representative sent to gather some intel and shake hands, you want your message to make waves. So does everyone else. If you expect fellow conference-goers to notice you–and not immediately toss your business card–you have to get creative and go the extra mile.
Here are 3 ways to get the most out of your next conference and have fun in the process:
1. Bring the Fun: get proactive and prepare a fresh activity, creative promotional item, or interactive booth to liven things up. Attendees will thank you, and then spread the word. HoneyBook, and online wedding album platform, set up a free photo booth at one conference, complete with props and costumes. “We even got conference managers and other sponsors to get in on the fun,” says VP of Marketing Tali Saar. “We then created a HoneyBook of the conference, where guests could view their photos.”
HoneyBook made a lot of buzz because their idea turned the spotlight back on attendees, and was inherently social. Even if your product is something people associate with fun, you can still find an active, entertaining way to share your message. It will be far more memorable than data and statistics.
2. Offer a Value-Packed Session: if you or someone from your company is speaking or leading a breakout session, don’t just self-promote. Present on a topic your audience cares about, and entice them with a challenge. Many attendees are there to sharpen their skills, expand their knowledge, and gain an edge on the competition with current insights. If there’s nothing in it for them, they’ll spend your entire talk on Twitter (and I don’t mean tweeting about you).
Erik Deckers, co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself, offers this advice:
“Pick a topic and level that slightly exceeds the abilities of the attendees….Your audience doesn’t want material that’s beneath them, and they don’t want to be reminded of things they already know. They want to be challenged, but not have everything go so far over their head they don’t understand a word of it. Pick an interesting, trending topic and give them new knowledge.”
3. Extend the Conference Online: conferences begin and end online. With social media, you can start meeting other attendees well before the event, and keep a conversation alive long after. Hashtags are the most popular way speakers generate buzz around their topic (and their brand), but there are even more effective ways to take your conference digital.
Create a slideshow for your presentation and upload it to SlideShare to reach a wider audience. If possible, consider offering a full webcast of your session so anyone can attend, even if they couldn’t afford the entry ticket. The added advantage of digital slides and webcasts is that people can find your content through a simple google search, and discover your talk months after the actual event.
Other creative ways to get more mileage from the conference include interviewing important speakers, recording a podcast of session highlights, live blogging throughout the day, and maintaining an active presence in the social media conversation. Others in your industry will appreciate the opportunity to attend vicariously, and you’ll come away looking like the conference star.
Put Conferences to Work for You
Think of conferences as an extension of the marketing and PR work you do everyday. They are an opportunity to add to your online presence with great content and a stronger social following. Done right, you can leverage a conference to promote your product or brand, and establish greater credibility and authority in your field.