Talk the Talk: Getting the Most from Corporate Conferences

corporate.conference.entertainment.activityConference participation is an essential tool in any marcomms armoury. However, with increasingly limited budgets and literally thousands of conferences out there to choose from – and that’s before starting to contemplate creating one yourself – how can marketing departments use their budget in the most efficient way to reach as many of their target audience as possible?

How many times have you been asleep at a conference? Or wished you’d never agreed to attend that lengthy corporate event in the first place? These are the symptoms of what has become a noisy and highly competitive industry – it’s much harder to determine the opportunities that are right for you and your business. I have been once invited to be a keynote speaker on wind power at an energy conference in China, despite being a strategic communications consultant!  In other words, not all conferences are created equal. When choosing to spend your valuable time and budget on attending or sponsoring a conference clearly vigilance is needed.

Under constant pressure to be in two places at the same time it’s also easy to forget that conferences are not just opportunities to hand out flyers or display your logo. The real value there is a chance to differentiate your business from the competition and display real thought leadership by driving opinion of issues key to your success.

It pays to be creative

Attending top conferences does not have to cost a fortune. If you have an original idea, can display innovation or your business has shown skyrocket growth, you could be invited to speak free of charge, without a sponsorship package. The opportunity to address a captive audience as a speaker allows you to communicate messages and establish yourself as an industry leader in a way that sponsoring doesn’t provide. And of course it’s a great alternative if your budget doesn’t allow full blown sponsorship.

Despite living in a digital era, we still do business face to face, based on respect and trust. Therefore, the opportunity to deliver a presentation in front of the entire industry can be a powerful vehicle to achieving your business goals. Face-to-face dialogue with professionals is often a safer option, especially if the issue is a complex one that could easily be misunderstood if delivered in sound-bite format.

It can also pay to sponsor

If you want to generate leads, opportunities and ultimately your sales pipeline, then taking part in a conference as a sponsor can be hugely beneficial to achieving this. By having a stand (and/or other branded presence) at the event you are giving attendees a clear point of contact on site and the opportunity to collect leads and answer questions as well as setting your stall as a major presence within the market.

Whether participating as a speaker or sponsor, use every opportunity to the maximum.  Secure pre-publicity with key media or a big announcement on the day of the event; chat to other attendees through social media; secure a couple of interviews with media attending on the day.

More effective than you think

Conference participation doesn’t have to be a zero sum game where involvement in one event precludes you from reaching the audiences at others. With a strategic outlook and a multi-pronged approach you are able to reach as many of your target audience across multiple geographies as possible and reach your marketing and communications goals in the most effective way.

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