Imagine if there was a place where a large group of professionals in your industry, who are hungry for knowledge and networking, were gathering. Now, imagine that you attended this event, but came away without more leads or connections than you had before.

Don’t let this happen to you.

Industry events are an amazing opportunity to promote your company. However, it is important to create a plan ahead of time that will help you get the most out of your attendance.

Here are five suggestions on how to plan for an industry event:

Research

Generally speaking, depending on the duration of the event or conference, you will only have 1-3 days to get the absolute most out of the available networking opportunities. It is a huge waste of time to spend your first day running around scoping out the attendees for the right people to meet with.

Reach Out

Once you have identified potential networking or business opportunities at the event, the next step is to reach out. It’s best to set up a call or virtual meeting prior to the event. This way, the ice will have already been broken when you get there, and you can get down to business straight away.

Tchotchkes

It’s all about the swag. At a conference, meet up, or any industry event, people love to get things. It has become common practice in recent years to distribute branded tchotchkes – but the key is choosing the right ones. Most companies have a limited budget, and considering the number that you will have to purchase, the price per unit will have to be low. It is important to make your swag useful, so that attendees will use it long after the event is over. That way, every time they use it they will think of your company.

Some common and popular items of swag include:

  • Flash Drives
  • Laptop Bags
  • Portable Phone Chargers
  • Mobile Phone Cases
  • Coasters

Contests

While swag is a nice way to get your brand known, the problem is that nearly every company at an event will be giving away their own swag. One way to really stand out is to host a contest that includes an attractive prize. Before deciding on the prize itself, you have to strategize about the contest. What are your goals? Is your aim to generate leads, get signups or just create brand awareness?

Once you’ve defined your goals, it’s time to come up with the rules of the contest. Generally, it will involve having attendees take some sort of action in order to be entered to win. After you have mapped out exactly how the contest will work, you will have to decide on a prize. Similar to swag, many companies will also hosting contests, so the key is to differentiate yourself based on the prize you will be giving away. iPads, iPhones, laptops etc. are expensive, and will most likely be the prizes of numerous other contests at the event. Try to come up with something different and unique – while still providing value and promoting your brand.

Post-Event

So you’ve collected a ton of leads, done some amazing networking and spread the word about your company to the world. Now it’s time to capitalize on all of these efforts. Post-event communication presupposes that you successfully collected leads and inputted them into your system. If you weren’t able to do that during the event itself, then quite frankly, your attendance was all for naught.

You need to nurture the relationships you created at the event, and one great way to do this is via email. Taking the leads you generated and inputting them into a system such as Marketo or Act-On will allow you to create nurturing programs to ensure your company achieves top-of-mind preference for each of the leads you generated. It’s a best-practice to create this campaign before the event, so that when you input the leads, you’ll be ready to go immediately. Make sure to keep your strategy to nurturing, rather than a hard sell. Your first email should be something along the lines of, “Hey John, it was great meeting you at x event, I look forward to staying in touch in the future.”

Events are a fantastic way to gain traction; they are industry specific and everyone is there for the express purpose of networking. However, you have to have a game plan beforehand if you really want to get the full benefit of an industry event.