Maximize Your Conference ROI

You’ve registered for the conference and booked your hotel. Your flight is booked. Maybe you reviewed the attendee lists and identified your prospects. Perhaps you even reached out and scheduled some business development meetings before departing for the conference. Bully for you. That is a successful return on your organization’s investment. Or is it?

You see, most people fail to take full advantage of their conference attendance. Sure, the above looks great. But if those business development meetings fail you will end up with an expensive boondoggle on your hands.

Conferences are about more than landing a single business meeting or networking at the event. Conferences are about seeing and being seen — at and beyond the event.

Below are three considerations you should factor into gauging the return on your conference attendance investment:

  1. Live Social Media Posts. Social media posting at conferences helps to get you noticed — by attending journalists, by business prospects and sometimes even potential employers. If you want to be seen as someone with their finger on the pulse of industry trends and developments — as someone who can solve problems and leverage opportunities — posting to social media during conferences helps. This includes using the dreaded-but-necessary selfie and use of appropriate industry and conference hashtags.
    1. Ideas for posts include: a picture of and quote from a speaker on the stage, a 15-second video of you talking about a highlight of the conference, promoting an upcoming presentation with a sentence about why you think it’s important, a photo of yourself with one of the speakers afterward noting something of import they focused on or said, etc.
  2. Blogs & LinkedIn Articles. A thoughtful and succinct article for your company blog or LinkedIn page about the conference allows you to highlight event content while also shining a light on your expertise, perspective and sometimes even leadership on a topic. With correct tagging and backlinks, you can also use the marketing power of the conference’s coattails to drive your message. Next day is preferable; within a week is the limit for posting content after the conference.
  3. Media Interviews. Bigger conferences typically have media in attendance. This can be one of the most productive uses of your time. If you have a perspective or opinion that fits within the theme or topic of the conference, get yourself interviewed. At a minimum, set up a 15-minute meet-and-greet with attending journalists to tell them a little about your organization (3 minutes or less) and what you can offer in terms of insights and opinions as a potential source. Work with your in-house communications team or external public relations agency to do what they do best: putting you together with media and get you prepped for those interviews or background conversations.

While the above may seem extra, the results of leveraging them appropriately can be extraordinary in marketing yourself and your organization. All have post-event marketing uses and can be used several times over, post-conference, to demonstrate your industry leadership … as well as maximizing your organization’s conference budget investments.


When Conferences Go Wrong: Have a Plan

Some conferences go smoothly. Others end in the wake of an active shooter event. There is a lot of grey between those two extremes, and organizations sending personnel to conferences ought to have a communications plan in place for the unexpected.

Last month, my colleague Eileen Coyne and I were attending RISKWorld in Atlanta (April 30 to May 3). On the final day of the conference, ahead of the closing keynote, an active shooter event took place a few miles from the conference location.

Our first notification of trouble came in the form of an ABC News alert. Text alerts from our hotel and the convention followed. Digital signage at the conference turned green with white text, alerting everyone to shelter in place and that the conference center was not part of the active shooter scene.

We immediately reached out to our families as well as colleagues to advise them that we were fine, that the conference was shutting down and the event in question was not nearby. As it turned out, the shooting took place two blocks from our hotel. It would be hours before the hotel would come out of lockdown and allow guests to come and go.

In speaking with other attendees, it became clear that if their companies had formal crisis communications plans at all (and about half of most US organizations do not), they did not have protocols for staff attending off-site events during an emergency.

Given the current social climate, all organizations need to develop crisis protocols for off-site events. Contacting the staff attending the event, confirming they are safe and cascading that message across the organization – and potentially to the family of those staffers involved — should be part of any crisis communications strategy. This applies whether it’s your CEO speaking at the conference as well as employee attendees or sales team members staffing the company’s vendor booth.

Whether the crisis originates from the actions of a person or persons, Mother Nature or something else, having a plan for out-of-town staffers in case of emergency is key. And, importantly, those traveling should be trained in the details of the plan — including phone contacts and protocols if cell or other communication services are disrupted.

According to the FBI, active shooter deaths and injuries are at a 5-year high this year. Companies with traveling personnel who spend any significant time on the road should receive active shooter training. This includes the basic principles of run, hide and fight, as well as what to do when and if authorities arrive on scene if you are present during an active shooter event.

This may all appear extreme. And it may be, until your organization is receiving urgent calls from worried families, coworkers or clients in the middle of a crisis event. Being able to respond quickly, with a protocol to follow and facts in hand can help keep your team safe during a chaotic and worrying situation and allow you to communicate factually with all parties concerned.