Everything you ever wanted to know about attending an event but were afraid to ask
One of the most useful things any startup business owner can do is to attend as many relevant networking events as possible. Events allow industry movers and shakers to meet, mingle and explore new business connections, innovations and opportunities .
Obviously in the current environment this is easier said than done, but there are still many ways business owners can engage with like-minded people to help build a network of support to take their business to the next level.
As someone who has worked in the events industry for over 16 years, I am of course incredibly bias towards events as a valid marketing channel and growth accelerator. That said, since starting my own business four years ago and having the pressures of time and money as any small business, it has made me re-evaluate my own relationship with the medium.
BENEFITS OF EVENTS
Brand recognition of one of the biggest challenges for a young business and getting out there is a crucial step in addressing it. Spreading the word via online marketing campaigns will be more effective if you have already met some supportive industry insiders and are building your network.
An event can be a smart way to meet new contacts to improve and bolster your supply-chain. Often events focus on serving one particular industry and attending can help you source multiple contacts and service providers in one-hit.
Attending an event also gives you the opportunity to meet potential customers and speak to them directly, providing you with immediate qualitive feedback on how your product or service is landing and any ways in which it could be improved.
ATTENDING AN EVENT
There are a multitude of ways of attending an event, from exhibiting at a trade show, to speaking at a conference or sponsoring an award ceremony — all of which can be live in-person or digitally. The key is to be clear in your objectives of what you want in return for your time and the financial investment in attending an event.
Trade shows can be B2B or B2C and present new products and services from a variety of related brands. They are an excellent way of networking with like-minded, motivated businesses seeking new contacts.
As well as products, there are learning opportunities at trade shows with experts talking on various topics connected to the industry. Many start up and small businesses feel intimated by a large trade show and the potential investment required to attend. To these businesses I suggest looking beyond the obvious ‘flagship’ exhibition for your industry, or look to partner with fellow complementary businesses as an opportunity to share the resrouces and reduce the financial and time impact on one organisation.
Conferences will have a schedule filled with engaging speakers, educational workshops and valuable networking sessions. Putting yourself forward as a speaker at an industry conference or taking part in a professional discussion can be enormously beneficial for your brand, so it is worth doing some research to find out what events are taking place and how you can maximise your investment in each. If you have a product, chances are you are an expert in your field and others will be interested in hearing from you.
Entering industry awards and attending award ceremonies are a great way to network with other industry insiders and make contact with potential leads in a social environment. As well as entering awards, many businesses attend award ceremonies in the capacity of event or category sponsor. This can really help elevate your brand and create a quality association in the eyes of your target audience.
Live events are great for networking but it’s inescapable that Covid has thwarted our capacity to meet in groups. However, technology has provided another way of bringing us together and in a way that also offers new opportunities. A significant advantage of digital events is the amount of data they can generate to provide insights on more effective targeting and engagement with audiences. Other benefits of online events are inclusivity as attendee numbers are not limited by a physical capacity or by travel constraints.
A really valuable piece of advice is to follow-up immediately after the event. Email everyone relevant you have spoken to, or send a LinkedIn message. It is so important to stay in touch while the connection and the conversation you had is still fresh in both your minds, laying the foundation for good will down the line.
RUNNING YOUR OWN EVENT
If there is something you want to promote or say but the right platform isn’t out there for you to do so, consider running your own event. Time consuming and expensive — perhaps — but a incredible way to interact with clients and prospective customers and with the help of virtual platforms, location isn’t necessarily an issue to content with.
As ever, it is really important to be clear in your objectives. Are you trying to sell your product or service, or are you hoping to create some brand awareness and position your company in a particular light?
Addressing these questions will help you decide on the type of event you want to run, whether it be live or digital. Who do you want to attract to your event as audience and as speakers? What size venue should you chose (if live or hybrid) and what content should you create?
MAKING THE MOST OF EVENT MARKETING
Make the most of any event by talking to as many people there as possible (if you are a natural introvert, push yourself outside your comfort zone). In essence, the point of events is to make as many connections as possible.
Make sure you are utilising all the social media channels relevant and available to you to promote your attendance at, or hosting of, an event. From LinkedIn to Twitter, Facebook to Instagram — get the word out there that you will be attending, are attending and have been attending an event! Use pictures from the event, create blog posts, and recycle any professional insights you have given at the event.
The opportunities for content creation from attending an event are endless, and think outside the box. As well as highlighting your product, highlight your brand by taking an alternative angle to your event experience — what was it like attending a live or digital event in the COVID era? Share your content on all your platforms to reach audiences far and wide.
Finally, events are meant to be enjoyable, so make sure you have some fun too! At its core marketing is about communicating and attending an event is one of the best ways you can get your brand out there.
I hope to see you at an event someday.
Katie Morhen is director of 52eight3 — the communications for the events and live entertainment industries.
Content originally produced for Startups Magazine, April 2021.
Photo credit: Event Tech Live