I attended the WBENC National Conference last week and, as usual, the event was fantastic! Big thanks to the organizers, speakers, session leaders, and all the people that worked hard behind the scenes to produce a great experience for the rest of us.
For me, the best part of the conference is always the people. Whether that’s meeting new people or reconnecting with existing colleagues and friends, personally speaking with individuals, especially after the past few years, was a gift. Don’t get me wrong. I am a fan of remote work and appreciate the benefits and efficiency greatly, but I also know that in-person events offer unique benefits, such as casual meetings, impromptu conversations, as well as more formal introductions. We all know that the main point of attending is for suppliers to meet new clients and vice versa; we’re in business after all, but that doesn’t happen instantly. Those introductions and conversations are the important first steps.
This year at WBENC, I had a particularly positive experience with one of our clients. They’re a large financial institution that has corporate partners and works with suppliers of all types and sizes. When they learned I would be attending WBENC, their Supplier Diversity Program manager scheduled informational meetings for me with several of their partners to share information about ATR and our services. One of the people I met with, from a global accounting firm, explained they were equally pleased with the opportunity, explaining it was an advantage to have a supplier referred to them, prequalified in a sense. Doing business with a partner who values the relationship and help you succeed is a wonderful example of how a mutually beneficial business relationship can work.
I met many wonderful leaders over the course of the week. I am grateful for the opportunity but that’s all it is, an opportunity. Success depends on what I, and my colleagues at ATR, do moving forward. There are no guarantees that someone you meet and speak with is going to hire you, and they are very unlikely to decide that at the conference. These events are an investment of time and money for a company, and what you do before and after the conference makes all the difference.
How to Invest Well in a Conference
Preparation and follow-up are important, maybe even more so than the actual initial introduction or conversation. However, during one of my meetings, I was told that attending events is a simple way to determine if your company is the size and caliber vendors are looking for. Showing up is foundation but leaves more to be done. Here are a few things that I do to help turn attendance into viable leads and real sales.
- Promote your attendance. Use social media and other channels to let people know you are going to be there. Do so in advance, not just a day or two before you leave. That’s how my client knew and approached me to arrange those meetings. If people know you’re going to be there, you will facilitate opportunities.
- Research. What companies are going to be there? What do they do, and which ones might need your services? Who is their representative? You will not have time to meet everyone or visit every company booth. Research helps you focus your efforts and use your time wisely in a targeted manner. When you meet them, you’ll be able to have a better conversation and demonstrate knowledge about their business and what’s happening in their industry as a whole.
- Tap into your network. Who do you know who is going to be there? Current clients? Past colleagues? Reach out and offer to help them. You might know someone they want to connect with. Your help will be reciprocated someday.
- Make a good impression. The advantage of in-person is that it’s easier to make a strong impression. Be polite. Listen more than you speak. Ask thoughtful questions. Be ready to discuss the speakers or sessions in a thoughtful manner. Practice and perfect your elevator pitch.
- Use technology to your advantage. At the end of a conversation, ask to connect, on LinkedIn or a more applicable social channel. Send the invite then and there. I’ve found that people are more comfortable connecting with someone they’ve met.
- Follow-up after the conference. Whether it’s a quick message or a formal reply with information they may have requested, keep in touch while your name is fresh in their mind. You’re building a business relationship, and relationships take time and nurturing.
- Promote your attendance afterwards. Your investment can pay dividends, even after the conference. Again, let people know that you were there. Share anything interesting that you heard or learned. Current or potential clients who couldn’t attend appreciate your thoughts.
And there you have it – attending events can be an advantageous investment for you and your business to make long-lasting connections. So get out there, meet some new people and get reacquainted with old friends. You won’t regret it!
Interested in knowing more about how ATR could be a diversity supplier for your business? Connect with us and learn how we can make a difference together.