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Attending a conference: what to think about

When you’re putting together a B2B Marketing Campaign, most people will think about attending conferences. That’s often the right thing to do, but it’s surprisingly difficult to do it the right way.

It’s much more than simply having a project plan to book the event and order materials on time!


Events and conferences can get pretty expensive pretty quickly, so it’s worth thinking about how you make the most of every penny.


Pick the right event

This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised by how much time and cash you can waste by attending the wrong event. Even if it’s just slightly outside your industry, or not the best event, you can find you’ve invested a lot of money into something that generates little or no return. In the UK, there is often one big event that covers your industry. If in doubt, that’s the one to go for - even if it’s not the cheapest option, it will probably get you the best ROI.

Do your research

If at all possible, attend an event as an individual before you commit to paying for a place. Most B2B trade fairs will offer free tickets to boost footfall. Use that ticket to research the event itself to decide if it’s really for you, to research your competitors and what their stands are like, and to spot those really engaging stands that you want to emulate. 



As a general rule of thumb, whatever it has cost to book your place or stand, we would always recommend spending about the same on promotional activities and materials to use before, during and after the event. If it’s a show you’re proud for your business to be at, you should be shouting about it to show your potential customers that you’re a major player in your market - and to drive awareness of your business ahead of the event so that you’re having warm conversations on the conference floor. If you just book the event and don't do anything else, you'll never get the return you could have.


When it comes to designing your stand, too many businesses go for the same formula, especially if they’re B2B: corporate-looking banner; matching leaflets; table to stand behind. If you want to attract people who aren’t already interested in you or your business, you need to give them a reason to visit your stand. No one has ever come away from a trade show saying ‘you know that stand, it was just too eye catching’ - so don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd! 


The business offering free coffee will always get a lot of visitors, so they’ve nailed attracting people to their stand. But that’s all for nothing if people just walk off, drink their coffee and throw their cup away. It’s vital that your stand engages people so they go away thinking about your business and what it could do for them. Think about activities you can use to keep people interested - either while they’re talking to you, or while they’re waiting for you to finish your previous conversation. And think about what people can take away as a regular reminder of who you are.

It’s vital that you take the right people. Standing in front of a banner selling your services all day will not be for everyone. Be honest with yourself about who will be best at it (that might not be you!) and who will give off the type of energy you would want to represent your business. 

Follow up

Even if you’ve done everything you can to engage people on the day, most of us are busy, and need a little nudge to get in to action. To be able to do that, you’ll need to make sure you have an easy way of getting people’s contact details, and a way to entice them to leave them with you. It could be the old school bowl full of business cards, or a QR code for people to fill in a simple form, with some sort of reward for doing so. Whatever it is, it’s needs to be as quick and easy as possible - too many fields to fill in, and people will quickly switch off. 

And then you need to make the most of that data. Follow up with your new contacts as soon as possible after the event, as personally as possible. If you’ve got five or six great new contacts, it shouldn’t be too much for you to pick up the phone and have a follow up chat within the next week. And no matter how much data you’ve gathered, it will always make sense to send an email - even if it’s automated - addressed directly to them, and opening up ongoing contact.



Getting ready for an event can be a long and stressful process, and the day (or week!) itself is an adrenaline-fuelled rush, so it’s easy to forget to take a step back and analyse how it’s gone. Look at what the event cost your business honestly - including travel and time away from day to day work - and measure that against the new or potential business it’s generated. While events are often as much about brand awareness as sales conversions, it shouldn’t be too difficult to work out the potential value of your new contacts or conversations, and work out you ROI from there. 

And even if you think the event has been a huge success, there will always be something you can learn from it. If you had the best, most effective stand at the event, you can be sure that your competitors will have taken note, and be looking to up their game for the next one - so what can you do to be even better, to stay ahead of the pack? 

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