You have a lot on your plate as an event professional, and networking is a big to-do on your list. That’s why attending conferences is such an important part of your business. During these conferences, you get to meet other planners and vendors, as well as learn about new products, trends, and advice that can help your business thrive. After an interruption during the pandemic, conferences are back in full swing, with more than 50 percent of organizers reporting increased attendance at their B2B in-person conferences in the past year. There’s certainly no shortage of conferences. While attending has its benefits, there are also some drawbacks. If it’s out-of-town, then you’ll need to pay travel and hotel expenses—not to mention that it will take you away from your clients and work duties for at least some of the time. That’s why preparing your ROI and goals before attending a conference is crucial and we're here to help you get ready!
Choosing Your Conferences
There’s no shortage of conferences to attend when you’re a wedding and event pro. “There are so many conferences out there so it’s about figuring out the one that’s a good fit for you,” says Tara Melvin from Perfect Planning Events. You’ll want to take a few things into consideration that are outlined below.
If the conference requires a lot of travel time, you’ll have those expenses in addition to the cost to attend the conference. It will also mean more time away from your business while you’re getting there and back.
Even if the conference is local, is it worth the price of admission? Take a good look at what the event is offering before signing up.
Make sure the event planning conference caters to pros like you. For example, if you solely plan local events and weddings, then a conference focusing on destination trends and tips isn’t the right fit.
What topics are going to be covered during the conference? Are they of interest to you and will they help your business grow? Who are the speakers? And, if you can find out, what other pros and vendors will be in attendance?
Will you have a chance to talk to the speakers at the conference, or simply sit and listen to presentations? And will there be opportunities for everyone to mix and mingle during the event?
Conferences are at their best when there is a diverse roster of speakers and attendees so it's important for you to take this into consideration as this is a great way for you to diversify your vendor partners.
Setting Goals & ROI
Many pros attend conferences without setting goals or thinking about their ROI. That’s a mistake, says Terrica Skaggs from Cocktails & Details. ”There’s so much value in in-person connection, intentional detail and gestures to connect with others, and being present,” she says.
Think long-term goals
Is it to learn about new technology for both your business and events? Meet like-minded vendors? Break into a different aspect of the event planning business, such as diversifying your service to gain new clients? Once you know what your goals are, you can start to choose your conferences.
Make a networking plan
Networking is a huge part of attending a conference, but with so many people in attendance, how can you keep track of everyone you come into contact with? “If someone gives you a business card, write on the back what you talked about, who they were, and then follow up with them immediately,” recommends Fausto Pifferrer from Blue Elephant.
Track the ROI
When it comes to attending in-person events, 80 percent of event planners say the return on time and investment for attendees is critical when planning in-person events today. Take a hard look at how much it will cost you—not just in money, but also time—to go to a particular conference, and how much you realistically expect to get back in contacts and new business.
Taking Care of Business During a Conference
Your business can’t stop running while you’re attending a conference. Here are some tips to make sure everything still runs smoothly while you’re gone.
Assign tasks to your team
Your staff and vendors should have clear direction on what needs to be done while you’re attending the conference. Meet with them a few weeks before you leave to go over expectations and send out everyone’s instructions before your departure via email so they can refer to it if needed. The goal of investing in a conference is actually being present and not thinking about tasks you have to get done.
Keep clients informed
Let your clients know that you’ll be out-of-town at a conference, but that your team will still be on-hand to help with any questions or situations that may arise. And of course, someone on your staff will know how to reach you in case of an emergency.
Set away email
Make sure you set a response message to any incoming emails that explains you’re at a conference and will be returning emails when you can. Also include the contact information for a team member they can reach out to if there’s an issue that needs immediate attention.
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