There are few things that cause a buzz in the business world quite the way a conference does, and there’s no better place to “see and be seen” than the expo hall at a well-attended industry event. But they’re about far more than just hype. There are very real, very important shifts taking place in the industry as relationships develop, partnerships form and transactions are made. Strategic attendance at the right conferences can position your company to influence the industry and tap into untold new revenue potential.

Four compelling reasons to attend a conference:

1. Get new customers: Ultimately, finding and retaining new customers is the single most basic objective of every business, and conferences are one of the most effective ways to do so.

Conferences can help build your customer base in two important ways: the first is by sheer brand awareness. Many times conference-goers are senior-level business leaders who are responsible for making key purchasing decisions for their respective companies. When the time comes to select potential solutions, they’re far more likely to gravitate toward products they’re familiar with – the more consistent their exposure to your company, the greater the likelihood it will capture (and hold) their attention.

The second benefit is the opportunity for real-time customer engagement. At a conference, you can sit down face-to-face with customers, show them demos, answer their questions and give them a real, live human being to associate with your company. Engaging with them in the same personalized way simply isn’t possible over email or by phone. That personal engagement means better relationships and – if you’re doing it right – more sales.

2. Make new partners: Customers aren’t the only valuable contacts you can make at a conference. Any industry conference you attend will also be rich with potential partners and collaborators. The right partner can mean a difference of thousands of customers, a bigger name or a better product. Take a close look at these opportunities. Explore the possibilities. There’s a lot you stand to gain from new alliances, whether it’s a larger network or a new and promising market.

3. Learn (or teach) something: Conferences exist, first and foremost, to facilitate the spread of knowledge. Attending sessions, participating in discussions and listening to panels can be incredibly educational. You can learn about new technologies and best practices while you soak up inspiration to help inform your future business strategy. Good conferences can expose you to dozens of new ideas over the course of only a few hours.

It doesn’t have to be all input, either – you can also take the opportunity to share your knowledge and expertise. Conferences are about more than just promoting your company (although of course, you’re going to prioritize that, too); they’re also about moving the industry itself forward. If you’ve discovered something interesting or are trying a unique approach, talk about it – a lot. If you do, you might get the feedback that will help you develop the idea even further or you might show a future partner or collaborator how they can join your efforts. If what you say is useful and hopefully inspiring, it will also position you as an industry thought leader, which isn’t a bad perk, either.

4. Understand how it all fits together: The business landscape is enormous and constantly evolving, but things happen in different places at different times on different “channels.” Attending a conference lets you put the puzzle pieces together, so you can see the bigger picture. What’s everyone talking about? What are your competitors doing? How are other businesses and products evolving? What factors are driving your industry in a certain direction? Which trends are most likely to affect your business?

Conferences are the one place you can see how all the disparate parts of the industry fit together. Think of it as a mobile, aerial snapshot of the entire marketplace. Whether you’re selling a solution, developing a product, or planning the future of your business, context is absolutely essential. A conference offers the best, most complete context you’re ever going to get.

Conferences are an investment, and it can be difficult to be certain the benefits of attendance are really worth the cost. Clearly, you have to make that decision based on what’s realistic in terms of both your bottom line and your specific business objectives, but if you’re on the fence, definitely consider attending. It could be one of the best things to happen to your business.