While cold calls and emails can be a great way to kickstart your business, networking opportunities — such as conferences — can prove to be an absurdly effective shortcut for success.
For one, it’s an instant exposure to hundreds and thousands of potential clients and investors into your idea. For 5 or 10 minutes, all of those eyeballs will be on you. That’s an ambitious goal to achieve with digital marketing.
Conferences are live networking events, which means you get to establish human contact and trust — things scarce in today’s online media dominated world. Actions like GDPR only prove our increasing distrust in the online system — which means that face-to-face contact is that much more important.
Even though most events try to create all of the means for your networking success, it is up to you to take advantage of those means and make things happen. The way you approach people during the networking phase, whether you stay for the afterparty; all of those things will have impact on what kinds of results you see from your conferences.
The most important factor of success, however, is your presentation: if it’s an attention grabber, people will approach you naturally after; if it’s a snoozer, you’ll push people away like a repellent.
Rule No.1: If You Can’t Make Your Pitch Subtle, Don’t Pitch at All
Conference presentations are essentially a genre of content marketing, and the most important rule of content marketing is to focus on the content and avoid overly advertising your firm.
Wait, wait… How do you let people know about your company? How do you get clients, and reap real results from the event?
Let’s get one thing straight: people don’t come to conferences to watch 10 minute advertorials. They’re not interested in company representatives coming in, giving a rundown of their services and a boringly biased case study.
People come to conferences to learn, to make real connections. They want to come out of the room feeling smarter and more connected than when they came in. Making your presentation all about your firm is just pure disrespect for the audience.
Instead, focus on giving the most informative and engaging presentation you could give. Include a mention of your company only when it is of added value to the content. Otherwise, don’t talk about your company at all. People who find your presentation interesting will seek you out themselves.
Rule No.2: Tell a Story
Apparently, humans are best designed to process stories, not data. Best articles and books are written as stories. Even the best scientific works have an element of a story behind them. Conference presentations are no exception.
Stories work best because audiences experience what’s called emotional sync — the state of being able to resonate with the character’s emotions and thinking. Through this emotional connection, audiences become more engaged, and understand the topic better.
Think there’s no way to turn your message into an engaging story? You’re wrong. The most basic option is to simply tell your story. What made you investigate this particular issue? What did you find along the way? What roadblocks did you run into? How did your findings change your own perception, and what does it mean in the broader context?
Rule No.3: Consider the Audience
So many times I’ve been to conferences where speakers give completely irrelevant messages. Surgeons talking about their methodologies to business executives. Business representatives blabbering about their company culture and work benefits to decision makers. I.T. geeks going into the intricacies of their code to a non-techie audience.
The value of your presentation is completely subjective. What is completely invaluable for one person can be of little use for the other. It’s just a fact.
It doesn’t mean that you have to talk about something you know nothing about. You can still deliver the message you wanted to deliver, just make sure it has the right angle. For example, if you know it’s mostly business executives sitting in the room, give a presentation that ties your topic to management, sales or other business actualities.
How do you know who you’re speaking to? It’s usually best to talk to the event’s organizers, or to someone who’s been to the previous iteration of the conference. Look for common denominators: industry, age, social status, professional status. If you want to go Sherlock on your research, you can even see who’s going to the event on Facebook and run through a bunch of people’s profiles.