A Survivor’s Guide to Attending a Marketing Conference

October 1, 2021

Congratulations! You’re on your way to, or sitting at, an upcoming industry conference representing your company or brand. Attending a conference can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience or the worst experience of your life. The greatest determining factor is how you approach the event.

Here at Investis Digital, we want everyone on our team to have the best time possible while out repping our brand and shaking hands. In our experience, surviving a marketing conference comes down to three key things:

  1. Working the room before you’re in the room
  2. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the event
  3. Following up after the conference

In this survivor’s guide, we’ll share our tips, recommendations and best practices for getting the most out of any marketing conference.

Goal for Marketing Conferences

Setting specific and actionable goals before you head out to a conference can help you make the most of your time with other marketers. If you’re on your way to a conference, consider using this opportunity to develop your network of industry peers or represent your own brand positively.

Some may attend a conference simply to network and meet new prospects. Others go in with the intention of learning, sharing and implementing new strategies for their brand. Be sure to think about what you hope to accomplish and set goals that will help you meet those accomplishments.

If you’re hoping to meet industry experts, set a goal of getting at least 10 business cards from marketing leaders. Another goal could be earning a follow on Twitter from at least five new contacts. Making these types of goals will help you achieve more once you arrive at the conference.

Actions Before You Leave

The weeks and months leading up to your conference can be critical. During this time, do some research into what the conference will be about and prepare for your time there. You may even be able to do a bit of networking before the conference begins!

Learn about the conference

We highly recommend doing a bit of research about the conference before you arrive. This may include looking at the conference website for information on the agenda, session tracks, location and history of the event.

Schedule your calendar

Once you’ve learned about what the conference has to offer, you may want to consider setting up your own itinerary or calendar that outlines all the sessions you wish to attend. This will help you stay on track during the conference. If you’re disorganized, it can be very easy to get off-course, miss a session or get delayed from attending an important workshop.

Work the room before you enter the room

To see who else might be attending the conference, find groups on LinkedIn or search for relevant hashtags on Twitter. Try networking with these individuals with the intention to meet up at the conference. Other conference attendees may have groups set up on Twitter, allowing for easy following of speakers and attendees. Set yourself up for easy networking by adding RSS feeds, bookmarking websites and getting hashtags handy for the day of.

Bring your business cards and important documents

You’ll be meeting a whole new group of industry professionals, so bring business cards to hand out. In addition, it can be a good idea to have an elevator pitch ready when you introduce yourself. Brainstorm the best way to introduce who are you, what do you do and what your company does. You’ll likely be asked this many times over the course of the conference, so it’s good to be prepared.

Keep the pulse of the conference in mind

Some conferences are very high energy, with parties every night and keynotes in early mornings. Other conferences are more low-key, with private workshops and hands-on learning. Social media coverage of past conferences can give you an idea of what type of conference you’re attending.

By monitoring social media and pre-networking, you can make the most of any type of conference. From free limo rides to four-course sponsored meals, you’d be surprised the types of things you can score (and people you meet!) by keeping a pulse on what’s going on.

Question to ask before you leave

  • Did you pre-network?
  • Did you choose your sessions yet?
  • Have you met with your internal team to discuss expenses?
  • Have you printed off all your required documents?
  • Do you have computer or notepad for taking notes?
  • Have you scheduled any meetups with other attendees?
  • Do you have business cards (generic or title specific)?
  • Are you prepped with an elevator pitch?
  • Did you turn on your “out-of-office” email?
  • Have you alerted your team to any coverage needs?

During the Conference

Checking into the hotel, attending registration on time, going to sessions and managing your hour-to-hour activities are entirely your responsibility during the conference. It can seem enticing to sleep in and avoid going to keynote addresses each morning, but these are some of the best times to learn and network. Therefore, you should strive to get to the conference first thing every morning.

Take notes during the sessions you attend

A large part of learning and being an expert is being able to teach what you learn. Be sure to take notes during the conference so that you can present this information to your staff and coworkers after you arrive home.

Be prepared with pen and paper

You may prefer to take notes on a laptop, but keep in mind that Wi-Fi is not guaranteed at these venues and bandwidth is usually spotty. Access to outlets may also be in high demand, so make sure you have batteries charged, backup internet available and a pad of paper just in case.

Monitor social channels

Retweet others, start following conference attendees, or tweet out to individuals. Keep an eye out for secret industry meetups, free dinners, and free swag. You may just end up gaining access to private parties, free limo rides or five-star dinner—all thanks to social networking.

Get swag!

The exhibit hall at conferences is where the vendors have tradeshow booths. Free swag, tool demonstrations and networking opportunities are often found in the exhibit hall. Attend a few times during the conference, and drop your business card in to win some great prizes. Just know—you’re likely to get a call after from someone trying to sell you something.

Whenever possible, give out a card and take a card

When our staff attends conferences, we ask them to hand out business cards and get business cards in return, so we can log these contacts in our CRM system. This isn’t something you absolutely have to do, but one of the benefits of networking is the possibility of landing a client. Work those business cards after the event, too.

After the Conference

Sharing information with others is an important part of attending a conference. After getting back from a conference, we ask our team to present what they have learned to a group. This can take a variety of forms, and we’ve provided some suggestions below. Choose a presentation style that fits your comfort level and be sure to prepare and present within a month of attending a conference so the information you learned is fresh in your mind.

Your after-the-conference presentation may look something like the following:

  • Top takeaways: Create a blog post about your top takeaways and publish on your corporate blog. Be sure to follow SEO best practices.
  • Presentation: Put together some PowerPoint slides and present them during a company meeting with your team. Your presentation can be as thorough as you wish, but we recommend striving for at least five minutes.
  • Standup: During a company standup meeting, give a freeform overview of what you learned at the conference. It will probably take at five minutes to effectively cover your key takeaways.
  • Document: Provide your team with a digital document (PDF, Word or other acceptable format) via e-mail. This document should organize the information you learned at the conference and can even be tailored to specific departments. We recommend creating a document that is at least three pages.

Additional Tips for Surviving a Conference

  • Use this opportunity wisely. Sending individuals to conferences is expensive. If you want your company to keep sending employees to conferences in the future, be sure to make the most of your time and get as much value from the conference as possible. Don’t be that person who causes conferences to be banned from your company.
  • Remember your company’s nondisclosure policies. There is a good chance that you signed some type of nondisclosure agreement when you began work with your employer. In most cases, that means you cannot expressly share client names with others outside of your company. There are exceptions to this rule, so be sure to ask your manager about your company’s policy before the conference starts
  • Think about your fellow coworkers in all departments. Earmark tools, resources and information that you think your peers could benefit from. Keeping your coworkers in mind during the conference can help you determine what information will be most useful for them afterwards.
  • Try to meet at least five new people during the conference. Even if you’re not usually very social, networking is very important for marketing conferences. Drop a pen near a group of individuals and introduce yourself. Sit at a lunch table with a new group of marketers. Stay after a session and shake hands with a speaker. Sit up front in a session and ask a question of the neighbor to your left. These are all strategies to help you meet new people and put yourself out there.
  • Consider how your company is being represented. When you attend a conference, you will be meeting people who have not heard of your company before, so it’s important to leave a positive first impression.
  • Bonus tip: Bring a charger, extension cord and any other data cables you can think of. You’ll be someone’s best friend and you’ll have the opportunity to meet some new people!

Conference Resources

Top Digital Marketing Conferences

Ultimate Marketing Conference Attendee Checklist

What Will I Learn in a Content Marketing Workshop?

How to Host a Virtual Event

Attending your next conference should be a fun and exciting moment for your career. With this survival guide, we hope you’ll be able to take full advantage of everything each event has to offer and bring value to your company as you attend marketing and tech conferences this year.

 

Written by Investis Digital, a global digital communications and performance marketing company. Be sure to catch Samantha Kermode, Investis Digital’s speaker, at Digital Summit.  Connect with her on LinkedIn in the meantime.