Why You Should Attend Conferences As A Small Business Owner
As a small business owner, when it comes to finding inspiration, keeping on top of the latest trends in your industry, and connecting with potential partners and customers, there´s no better opportunity than at conferences.
Whichever industry you´re in, whether it´s healthcare, retail, transport, beauty, or e-commerce, there are thousands of conferences across the globe, loaded with potential business opportunities.
Which Conferences Should You Attend?
Being in a room full of like-minds allows you to exchange ideas, get feedback, learn from others, and share your wisdom, which can help you overcome obstacles, find new business leads, and ultimately, expand your SME.
Ask other business owners and peers, or perform a few Google searches to find out what conferences are happening in your city or a city nearby. Every major city hosts multiple conferences each year.
Attending conferences abroad can also be very beneficial depending on your market and your ambitions. Some of the most relevant conferences for your business may be overseas. Major cities throughout the UK and Germany are hotbeds for conferences.
Another great idea is attending an inspiring, non-industry specific conference such as Brilliant Minds in Stockholm, Sweden, for example. At these types of conferences, you can experience keynotes and panel discussions from out-of-the-box thinkers, creators, and purposeful leaders from tech, music, fashion and innovation.
Attending a conference as an exhibitor with a physical stall or booth advertising your products and services can be a good investment as it can provide great exposure for your company.
Alternatively, you may wish to be a sponsor and have a flyer or item inserted into delegate bags. This can be a good way to get your brand seen be as many people as possible.
However, if it´s your first year attending the conference, attending as attendee only and observing how things operate and who attends before investing further is a smart move.
A Plan of Action
The single-most important thing when attending a conference is to study the program well before the conference. When attending a conference, the days are long and often hectic so to make the most out of it, it´s vital to have a “game plan”.
Study who is talking, what´s happening, and at what time so you can work out a schedule. See which keynote talks or panel discussions are the most relevant and of most interest to you and your business and make it a priority to see those.
When scheduling, don´t forget to allow time to take breaks and to network with peers.
See Who Else Is Attending
While reviewing the conference schedule, take a moment to see who else will be attending the conference.
Knowing who will be attending in advance will allow you to maximise your time and focus on meeting those who are most integral to your business needs.
Don´t rely on a chance meeting - get in touch via email with those you´re interested in meeting weeks before and set up an appointment. People´s schedules fill up quickly, so get in early.
When finally attending day one of the conference, set up an out-of-office email notifying emailers that you´re attending the conference and that there may be a delay in responding to emails.
Next step, make sure you bring all the tools you need. This means bringing your phone and laptop chargers with you, business cards, and any other materials you need to make your conference experience run smoothly.
Most conferences have breaks in the sessions to allow for networking with peers. Attend your pre-arranged meetings but also allow time to talk to conference attendees during the breaks.
Another helpful tip – instead of selling your business to others, ask others about their business, listen to what you can learn from them, and explore ways you could work together. Many times, the best ideas and partnerships come from unlikely meetings.
After a busy couple of days and hopefully an armful of business cards, leads, and prospects, it´s time to debrief. Look at your notes, look at the cards you acquired and work out your next steps to follow up.
It´s important to maintain the momentum from any exchanges you had at the conference and to follow up on leads. While the conference is still fresh in people´s mind, spend the following week sending follow-up thank you emails and connecting with people you met via LinkedIn.
After all, the greatest value of any conference and subsequent transaction is the connection itself.