By David Adelman
Every startup CEO needs to sell. Nothing is more important than getting your product out in the market and finding folks to pay real dollars for it. There’s no shortage of sales approaches — emails, cold calls, networking events, catchy banner ads, knocking on doors, etc. They’re all worth a shot.
But I’ve found that for my companies, ReelGenie and Reel Tributes, I get the best ROI from attending conferences, conventions or trade shows. In two days at a conference, you can achieve what could take months sitting at your computer, all in a fun location. I’m writing this surrounded by palm trees in Miami, where it’s 75 degrees.
As with anything else, it pays to prepare for a conference. Based on my experience, I’ve come up with 10 tips to help you get the most out of every conference you attend.
- Plan ahead. Figure out the conferences that work best for your business (hint: they’re rarely the hyped startup conferences like SXSW, although those are a lot of fun). You’ll be amazed by how many associations and trade groups there are in every industry. Get creative. Go where your competitors aren’t. Keep a running list of all the conferences you hear about, and prioritize that list based on two key metrics: Who you will meet and how much it will cost.
- Do your homework. Look through every detail on the conference website. Check out who’s sponsoring, speaking and exhibiting. If that information isn’t available on the website, look at last year’s program. Decide whether it’s a conference worth attending. And once you pull the trigger, plan for specific sessions. Leave plenty of time to walk the exhibit hall floor. I’ve found that the best time to do this is during a keynote speech you don’t mind skipping. The floor is empty, so vendors will spend more time chatting with you.
- Be frugal but smart. Don’t let a limited budget get in your way. Go to a few conferences as an attendee before shelling out the big bucks for an exhibit booth. Find conferences that are close to your home. When traveling, crash with friends or use AirBnB to save on hotels. Conference registration fees aren’t cheap, so always ask for startup discounts. They’re not listed on the websites, but the organizers may just hook you up. Even if they say no, they may offer to walk the floor with you to show you around and make valuable introductions.