By Katie Despite the recent increase in popularity of virtual conferences, our clients collectively have physically attended many a conference in the past 2-3 months. For instance, FalconStor attended SNW Fall 2010 this week. Just two weeks ago, Aprius was at IDF 2010 and Amadesa and SundaySky were attending the Shop.org Summit. At one point, it was enough for a company to devote budget to sending a few reps to a show: plane tickets, accommodations, exhibition space, and collateral and booth design. Is that enough, though? Can more be done online? Will these physical efforts to be visible on a show floor help you rise above the noise of a conference? While worthwhile, these costs quickly add up, but there are plenty of additional (free) ways to further your dollar during conferences. Let's use SNW as an example, since most shows offer similar agendas and resources.
Do your research: Who is attending? Whom should you meet? Where will people congregate? Check out the sponsor page of the conference to get an idea of who will have booths at the show. If your company is sponsoring, you most likely have access to the press list to contact editors and arrange media briefings. (Share the list with your PR firm, if they haven't already tracked it down.)
Prioritize the sessions you definitely want to see and make time for booth visits. It will be hard to speak with those reps from companies that are presenting, but reference their session, if possible, in any follow up discussions on the show floor.
Attend the reception. When the first day is over, everyone is ready to mingle. And if you are at SNW's reception, you can watch world famous texas armadillo races. Need I say more?
Submit your product for conference awards. If you win, best-of-show programs are one surefire way to shoot your company and product awareness through the roof (at least for the show).
Do you have a company blog? Don't neglect it during the show. Send your followers a reminder that you are there, link to the show, reference sessions and companies and increase your online visibility, linkbacks and SEO.
Some conferences use directories and communities to get the attendees networking prior to and after the show. Sign up, use, share, engage, make appointments. You'll thank me later.
Regardless of the conference's own user community, you must traverse the social media landscape and engage with prospects before, during and following the conference.
Twitter: Engage with attendees via RTs and DMs. Follow the conference handle and relevant hashtags (in this example, @SNWUSA, #snwusa, etc.) Use those trending topics and hashtags and include your booth number in all tweets.
LinkedIn: Join conference groups and track for updates (SNW, Computerworld, etc.). Post comments and discussion threads to these groups, including the company booth number, any relevant photographs, etc.
Facebook: Post updates to your fan page; let your fans know that you are attending, your booth number, what you hope to learn and talk about, etc. Join relevant groups and conference pages (there is no Facebook page for SNW).
Flickr: Take pictures. Take pictures of the local scenery if you are traveling out of town. Take pictures of your booth. Take pictures of Armadillos for Pete's sake, just take pictures. J
YouTube (and other similar platforms): While you're at it, take video. Almost all smart phones have a video function now, so you have no excuse. Candid's can include footage from the trade show floor, demos, etc. Testimonials are great, too! Capture those customer and employee soundbites and share them with the world: company blog, Facebook, and video platforms like YouTube, Vimeo and MetaCafe.
Some companies are choosing to forego attending conferences for the cheaper route: virtual events or simply co-mingling online via social networks. There are pros and cons to both, and we'll discuss how to maximize your conversations when participating in a virtual conference in a future post. Go forth and confer!
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