While the last couple of years opened our eyes to the possibility of online events and virtual meetings, many companies are chomping at the bit to get back to in-person events, feeling that face-to-face communication is still the most powerful way to connect with potential clients. If your small business is looking to return to conferences this year, here are a few ideas on how to get ready to return to in-person events and get the most out of your efforts.

Promote your attendance well before the conference

exhibit boothSome of the most powerful marketing efforts should be done before you attend the conference. Prior to an event, everyone is excited about the thought of in-person networking again, so make the most of it! Reach out to your contacts via email, social media, and even a blog post, talking about your attendance at the conference. Whether you’re simply attending, manning a booth, or even an event speaker, letting people know ahead of time is a great way to get the most out of your attendance. If you’re attending without a booth, try to set up short meetings before, during, and after the event. Suggest a coffee meeting or find out if any of your prospects or customers are going to be at the event as well, and let them know you’d like to connect, visit their booth, or attend their session if they’re presenting. If you have a booth, most certainly let people know what booth you have (such as a booth number) and create an incentive to stop by, such as a freebie or a discount. For those small businesses who are speaking, invite your prospects to attend the session and let them know you welcome their feedback afterward. Getting the word out ahead of attending can really build hype about your attendance.

Highlight your activities while you’re at the event

conference speaking sessionsStaying active with updates on social channels is a fantastic way to let people know you’re there. People can quickly get caught up in the frenzied, packed schedule of a conference or other event, so posting updates, event tips (like where the best coffee is), and reminding people about your booth location or speaking session are all effective ways to stay top of mind during the conference. Your small business marketing efforts shouldn’t stop once the event starts!

Recap the conference and continue to stay in touch

recap the conversationMost people walk away from a conference or other event completely pumped up by new information they’ve learned and new connections they made. Don’t squander the opportunity to keep that momentum about your small business alive! Reach out personally to each contact you made and recap the conversation you had or the presentation you did. Share your presentation with those who provided an email address, so your insights stay top of mind. Follow up with other incentives to stay engaged, such as free trials, discounts or sneak peeks at future products or services to those with who you connected. Remember that they’ll likely be bombarded by others they connected with at the conference, so make sure your communications stand out. Touch base more than once; many people will do a quick “nice to meet you” email and then move on. Take the time to reach out a few more times to really connect with those new prospects. Here are a few more trade show marketing ideas to help stay in front of those prospects.

In-person events can be a powerful way to market your small business. Having a plan to promote your attendance before, during, and after the event will ensure you stay top of mind with your prospects and get the most out of your attendance.

Patty Hughes
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