Last week, my company sponsored a conference for sales force productivity. As I went into it, I remembered running booths with Body Boss…

I forgot how much fun (and tiring) it was to work a conference, and how important it was for those working the booths and sessions to actively participate. Walking around many of the booths, many people sat behind their booths. Some, even, working on their laptops. Not very engaging.
Perhaps because my company is a startup that I was determined to get as many conversations and leads as possible. Sinking the investment that we did meant we needed a strong return. I felt that my company’s investment was myinvestment.
As attendees entered and exited sessions, and walked by our booth, I was right there in the middle of everyone engaging with just about everyone. One piece of schwag we gave out at the conference was a green “squishy” stress ball. I must’ve put these balls directly in the hands of 75 people while casually giving my 5-second pitch to see if they’d stop by. I even up put one ball directly in the chest coat pockets calling them “pocket spheres” – new fashion accessories. Hey, I got laughs, and I got serious interest from them.
Okay, maybe I had too much energy – ha! But you know what? I have a stack of qualified leads and ongoing conversations with 20 or so contacts, while no doubt raising a lot of awareness. If a few of these convert, our investment and our enthusiasm will have paid off well. Isn’t that the most important thing? To drive a return on an investment knowing you did all that you could? I made the experience more personal for attendees while adding some ridiculous humor into it. Like making cold calls – you need something to get the receiver hooked and engaged for that initial conversation.
If you’re going to work, enjoy it. If you want a conversation, start it. If you’re going to make an investment, give yourself every chance to succeed and the highest returns.
Alright, so it’s 2014! Happy New Year! Okay, we’re a little belated…

Into Year 2 now for Body Boss (since launch), and it’s Go Big or Go Home time.  Since we launched last year, we found conferences and clinics are really great platforms for us to market and sell Body Boss.  Especially for our target audience, the big clinics occur in the late winter months into the early part of summer. In fact, we’ve got a big Coach’s clinic this weekend for mostly high school football coaches throughout the southeast for the Glazier Football Clinic.

Preparation can really set yourself apart and really be a great marketing and sales diving board if done well.  So here are some tips and pointers for you as you think about heading to a conference either as an exhibitor or just an attendee…

  • Conferences are rarely where dollars are exchanged.  Yup.  If you’re looking to close a lot of deals, they’re not going to be at those exhibitor booths.  Instead, they may happen at a dinner or meeting room nearby, or more likely, later.  Conferences are more about making the connections.
  • Have some standout materials to give out.  When I say materials, I mean like content materials — one-page slicks, business cards, and otherwise.  I can’t tell you how many great leads and compliments we get from some of our materials. We don’t spend much money on the actual materials, but we make sure what we give out is designed well to leave an impression with the call to action (CTA).  Look into Moo.com for business cards, and Vista Print for some one-pagers.
  • Get out from behind the table.  I’ve seen some vendors sit behind a table waiting for people to talk to them.  This is HORRIBLE.  People aren’t going to just walk up because you have a table and a sign.  If anything, you look cold, and no one wants to work with someone who’s cold and uninviting.  Get out, and think about being proactive in pulling people in.  You’ve probably spent money to be at the conference, so spend a little effort to bring them in, too.
  • Give them a reason to talk to you.  First, your product or service should offer some value to the target audience or this whole post goes to the can.  Beyond, you have to captivate the audience to stop by.  One way to do this is with a good looking banner.  Let’s call this a minimum requirement because everyone else will at least have SOME banner.  If you rely on one the conference gives you, it’ll probably be terrible, and it’ll entice no one.  If you’ve got power at the booth, think about hooking up a TV or other display that alternates images or videos so wandering eyes will be quickly drawn to your booth.
  • Your booth is like a website.  If you’ve got the right signage, your product on display, or even someone demo’ing, you’ve done your inbound marketing.  Next, it doesn’t hurt to also have a little outbound marketing, too.  In conjunction with the “get out from behind the table” point above, say something interesting to grab people’s attentions as they walk by.  Heck, we’ve even dared or joked with coaches who walk by our booth, and just because we’ve got some personality and passion for our business, they want to come over to talk to us.
  • Hire models with brains (if you must).  With the whole “grab attention”, I think this is an important point.  I’ve seen some pretty cheesy booths in the past who hired models to help bring people in.  But what’s funny is that when these models bring in prospects, the prospects ask questions and the models have no idea what to say.  We’ve actually brought two great models in the past to a Clinic.  They were fantastic.  Outside of being models, they knew the business and they knew fitness.  When it came to coaches asking about the product or talking shop, the models were on point, and ended up getting several coaches to sign up for trials by themselves — a great asset, too, when the rest of us are handling other prospects.

Presentation is half the battle, especially, I think, at conferences where you’re really trying to lure people in. Then again, the best strategy is to have a strong following via word-of-mouth which could end up funneling potential customers TO you rather than you pulling others in. And while you’re talking to the masses, you’ll no doubt intrigue others to stop in and hear what you’re all about. Kind of sounds like a quality street show, not that I say it…

What are your thoughts on conferences?  What might I have missed?