Four ways to make an impact at events and conferences

Exhibiting at an event or conference is not a decision to be taken lightly. For a start, it will cost a considerable sum - but if you take these four simple tips into consideration, you can ensure your get a good return on the investment.

Put plenty of time into research

Be sure to set aside ample time before the event to research and plan your strategy. Everything you do from here onwards will be a direct result of the research you’ve conducted at this stage.

In addition to looking on the event website for information on the upcoming event and previous events, take some time to browse social channels. Most events come with their own hashtag, so make a note of this and be sure to comb through Twitter and Instagram in particular. This will not only give you a first hand account of the attendee’s experiences, but will also let you scope out what other exhibitors have done and what proved most popular.

Set clear objectives

Whether it’s attracting talent, investors or just trying to get the word out to new customers, clearly defining your reason for being at the event will help you consider how to staff your stand but also what you should bring in order to capture the attention of the right crowd.

If your main goal is to recruit, then you need to make sure you have a recruiter at your stand at all times. If you’re looking for investors, it’s probably a good idea that your and your fellow founders take the time to be there. Similarly, if you are looking to appeal to new customers, make certain you have someone from your sales or customer experience teams.

Make sure you have everything you need

After you’ve defined your reason for exhibiting and ensured that your stand will be appropriately staffed, it makes sense to stock up on the materials necessary to match your demands.

Potential recruits are interested in information about the company – in particular culture. Can you help them imagine working there? Perhaps a brochure will do, or take it one step further and offer an office tour in Virtual Reality.

Investors, well, they want to need to know the nitty gritty. Have you prepared an investor deck ahead of time? If not, then you need to get cracking! While it’s all well and good to talk up your company, they need to be able to calculate if it’s a worthwhile investment so be sure to know your numbers.

To attract and expand your user base, you need to make sure that you have your product at hand. How else will they know what it’s like? If it’s an app or SaaS, be sure your stand has enough power running to it to supply some testing kit such as computers, tablets or phones. If it’s a paid product, then consider handing out free trial codes so users can continue to test it in their own time.

Don’t obsess over SWAG

SWAG = Stuff We All Get. The idea is in the name – we all get it so why would we want more of it? Instead of ordering heaps and heaps of notepads, t-shirts, pens and totes, save your cash and spend it on something that will actually help draw people towards your stand.

At a conference recently we witnessed one company with a popcorn trolley – this could not be simpler! Masses of people were flocking to the stand to grab some popcorn and at least four out of every five people continued talking to the stand staff, learning more about what they did. This proved useful to help get the conversations going – the popcorn trolley more than likely paid for itself.

On the other end of the scale, you could consider holding a competition and pooling your resources up to buy a big prize for the winner. One example is creating a coding challenge using a variety of software languages – some popular and some more obscure. This works particularly well for puzzle-crazed developers who are often looking for problems to solve. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to identify some top talents and get a hire out of it.

While it’s great to bear these tips in mind, there is no ready made template to get you through the event. You’ll need to be smart to maximise the opportunity to its full extent. More than anything else, though, it’s important to keep your business goals aligned with your audience and being prepared to chop and change things to suit your needs.