A conference or event can be a great tool for your business, whether to promote what you do, share skills and knowledge with others, inspire the team or recruit new employees to join you. However, simply showing up isn’t enough — you need to come with a plan to put your best foot forward at every professional gathering.
Such preparation should include what not to do at your business event or conference, as many common mistakes affect small companies when they attend. Learn from the following six examples to ensure your experience goes off without a hitch.
1. Not Knowing the Goal in Attending
It seems like a good idea to attend a professional conference related to your industry. Why exactly have you decided to go, though? Before you head out, grab a piece of paper and write down everything you want to achieve there. Perhaps you want to make a few industry contacts, or you want to learn to use a new bit of technology.
No matter what you strive to do, having a measurable, specific goal in mind will guide you throughout your time at the conference or event. Once you accomplish what you set out to do, you’ll feel fulfilled by attending.
2. Signing up for an Unrelated Event
Knowing your goal will come in handy here, too — you shouldn’t attend any trade events that won’t push you closer to what you want to achieve. For instance, if you’re looking for clients, then going to an industry conference wouldn’t help you to do that. On the other hand, if your goal is to recruit staff or pick up new business methods, then an event like that would come in handy. Do your research to ensure you’re preparing and attending a conference that’s worth your time.
3. Marketing It Poorly
If you’re in charge of the event, then it’ll be your responsibility to get people to join you. As such, marketing will be vital to your operation and should be a major part of your preparation.
To properly advertise what you have to offer, put yourself in an attendee’s shoes. They’ll want to know who the speakers are or what the training sessions will cover. If it’s a networking event, what companies will be present, and will food and drink be included? If the conference spans several days, the hotel and venue itself might be a draw, too. Highlighting these facets will help convince people to join you and pay the fees for doing so. In other words, it’s a win-win for you and your attendees.
4. Failing to Network
A business event of any kind can easily turn into an opportunity to network. As such, every company owner should go in with their networking skills warmed up and ready — but some don’t, and that’s a huge mistake.
Before the conference, brush up on the don’ts of networking. For instance, you shouldn’t bop around the room in search of the most influential people with whom to chat. To that end, trying to sell something or talk to every single person in the room are no-no’s, too. Instead, strike up a conversation and see who you have an instant rapport with — these real connections are the kind that can lead somewhere in the future.
5. Packing the Schedule Too Tightly
An overzealous planner does not a good business event make. You want to make sure everyone gets their money’s and time’s worth, but putting speakers on back to back to back will leave everyone drained. Plus, everyone there will be busy businesspeople, too, so they’ll need time to check emails and call their teams. An inflexible schedule simply won’t suit.
Be sure to work in ample break times for refreshments, email checks, chats, and downtime. That way, everyone feels refreshed and ready to be productive again when the next session starts. Keep this in mind if you’re attending, too — give yourself room to breathe so you can get the most out of the trade event or industry conference ahead.
6. Leaving Leads Unfollowed
Finally, your business event will probably leave you with a few new leads — it would be a huge mistake to let them lapse. Let’s say you attended a networking night and met someone whose knowledge and expertise could help you achieve your company goals. You have their card or you exchanged email addresses, so use that information to your advantage. Something as quick as an “it-was-nice-meeting-you” email could restart the conversation — and build a valuable connection in your career.
Keep these avoidable mistakes in mind as you prepare to bring your small business to a conference or throw an event yourself. Once you’re in the right mindset, you’ll be ready to put yourself out there, meet new people, learn and help others — and grow your company along the way.
Bio: Nathan Sykes is the editor of Finding an Outlet. To read his latest articles online follow him on Twitter @nathansykestech.