We have all either been there, either swamped with the everyday responsibilities of running a business or trying to close a sale. The last thing on your mind is attending conferences or get togethers put on by national organizations or local chambers of commerce. However, occasionally you need to step back and look at the benefits of these events.
To relieve the stress of this out of the ordinary activity, and to attract the biggest return on investment (ROI), you need to plan well in advance. When deciding if it would be beneficial to attend you should look at the timing, who will be in attendance, and how much it costs to attend. These key factors will help you decide if attending a conference would be worthwhile. Being organized and having a strategy is the first step, along with timing, attendance and dollars.
Before the end of the year start to target either industries or customers you want to reach. For instance, if you want to target state government contracts, consider looking for conferences or opportunities to get in front of those individuals. It all starts with research, there are organizations and associations for nearly every industry.
This is the most difficult decision. For most, time away from your day-to-day business could be a reduction in revenue. However, you need to look at the positives of attending a conference. First, networking; there are few places where networking opportunities are made available other than at a conference. In fact, most conferences schedule opportunities for networking. Second, attendance roster; this is the holy grail of information. Many conferences provide an attendance list. You should get a copy, research it, and prioritize people or companies you want to know and keep it. You never know when you may be contacted or need to contact someone from the conference. Third, this is maybe old fashion in the digital age, but business cards. Use them, leave them, and take them from others. Even if it is not someone you may do business with, they may know people and can facilitate an introduction.
Many will say that the cost is one of the reasons for not attending conferences. In some cases, I may agree. If you are not strategic and resourceful with your budget, you could run into issues. A couple of suggestions:
When you, or your staff, return from the conference, you should do a debriefing. Review the pluses and minuses. Did we make connections, if not why? What can we do differently? Should we be more involved in the organization? Once you do this, you will be able to step into the next year with a clear direction and planning for the future.
Michigan Legislative Consultants is a bipartisan lobbying firm based in Lansing, Michigan. Our team of lobbyists and procurement specialists provide a wide range of services for some of the most respected companies in America. For more on MLC, visit www.mlcmi.com or connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.