Mesh Without Wires

March 26, 2011

Making the Most of Conferences and Expos: #B2BChat Offers Advice and How-to’s

Filed under: B2B,Corporate Twitter,Social Media — kseniacoffman @ 10:08 am

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know that I am one of the moderators of #B2Bchat – a weekly conversation for B2B marketers. If you are not familiar with Twitter chats, please see my post: Primer on Twitter Chats.

Follow #B2Bchat on Twitter

Follow #B2Bchat on Twitter

With the spring season of conferences and trade shows in full swing, the last #B2Bchat tackled the best practices on how to manage them (and survive). Panels, business meetings, speaking sessions, trade show floor, dinners, parties (those I skip, I swear) – how do you balance them all? Below are the tips and how-to’s that #B2Bchat participants shared.

Starting with the basics – Q1. On the trade show floor – How can you be most effective, whether or not you have a booth?

  • tracibrowne: Show up with quantifiable objectives so you can measure success (or failure)
  • skylineexhibits: If you have a booth, promote ur presence aggressively to get right people into it. Have talented staffers who want to be there.
  • donseamons: Engage, focus your message, qualify quickly, then move on.
  • kseniacoffman: Pre-schedule meetings; don’t show up w/ out an agenda
  • NickBianchi: It’s good to set up contacts in advance, but don’t overplan. Many valuable things can be spur of the moment.
  • Brandspiration: Try to get a list of exhibitors before attending – research who you want to network with in advance & then approach.
  • MaureenB2B: Staffers should have great consultative sales questions around likely pain versus info about “stuff”
  • b2bento: Pre-event networking is the key! RT @vasanthgan: A1: Pre-schedule meetings, spread your key messages
  • DWesterberg: So many things to accomplish at a conference.  Think: press, alliance partners, buzz @ conference, leads

There was a side conversation on ‘disinterested staffers.’ I honestly have not seen this on our booth ever, but here are a few pointers:

  • tracibrowne: How do you know a staffer doesn’t want to be there? They usually make it pretty obvious…rolling eyes first clue ;-)
  • skylineexhibits: They either tell you, you ask them, or their performance is so bad at a previous show.
  • donseamons: I was just at HIMSS11, a large health B2B show. Many examples of disinterested staffers: http://bit.ly/epliJD

Q1 summary: objectives, preparation, key messages & questions, + enthusiastic staffers = success!

Q2. If you have a speaking gig, how to best leverage it ? Pre-, post- and during the panel

Pre-session:

  • tracibrowne: If the event has an online community be active in it
  • ASegar: On event community, let it be known you’ll be around pre & post your session to chat & answer questions
  • skylineexhibits: Speak early in the show, then have a booth on the show floor. Attendees will talk business in your booth. Can’t mandate, but you can ask. Networking with the other speakers is awesome, too: go to the speaker room, attend speaker dinner (if there’s one)
  • ASegar: Offer organizers short pieces, written or video, about your session
  • donseamons: Lots of pre-show pub in mailers, emails, social media, etc. Schedule time for the speaker to be in the booth, and promote that, too.

During the panel:

  • b2bento: Present agnostic, useful and good content. Don’t try to oversell. Network (online) pre and post events – answer questions
  • skylineexhibits: Don’t sell your product, sell your expertise through credibility by doing a great, informative presentation. Offer to email something of value (such as a white paper) for attendees that they can get by giving you a business card.
  • kseniacoffman: It’s appropriate to invite ppl to your booth after the panel (soft sell)
  • vasanthgan: During the panel, focus on the future trends/solutions and not on what the audience already know about.
  • itsjustjana: Post session Q&A is sooo important. Huge pet peeve when I book a speaker who talks and runs.
  • DWesterberg: At events I like to have the most giveaways for largest audience – Not at $200 item/drawing but a $10 item for 20.

After your panel:

  • ralaw33: Post show we’ve gotten the best response by using social media platforms to distribute slides and video. Extends use.
  • phylliskhare: I like that idea of creating a short video response right after the panel — that’s something to do right away!
  • ASegar: Try to get your session recorded; can use for post-conf PR

Q2 summary: Try to speak early; promote the session & booth presence; be active in online community pre-show; share your presentation socially.

Q3. If you blog or tweet from an event, what do you focus on?

Tweeting, live blogging, daily blog recaps and post-even long-form blogs are all useful, but immediacy is definitely with tweeting and live blogging:

  • cuferg: Focus on content: sessions of interest to your targets/audience, key messages coming out of the sessions, show floor happenings.
  • vasanthgan: Key Numbers (stats) of the business/market that is shared in events.
  • kseniacoffman: Think like a reporter – but put a company PoV on it (i.e. what you wish the press woud write about you) :-)
  • cuferg: I’ve noticed marketing presentations are providing easily “tweetable” content, key points in 140 or less lately. Any others doing this?
  • shotgunconcepts: @cuferg Just the new reality of an old axiom. You always need to leave audience with a few memorable points. They’re now 140 characters.
  • tricomb2b: Capturing the meaning behind the event and using information gained to educate and help others!
  • MarchellGillis: Interesting trends and sites from the event, I may reference folks that I meet
  • shotgunconcepts: Offer value in your event tweets & blog posts, don’t just be a self promoter
  • B2Bento: Good example of live blogging – @asuthosh did a great job of live blogging from SMWF – http://b2ben.to/btR5i9
  • asuthosh: Include relevant comments from the audience and reactions to those – that tends to be left out in conference material
  • skylineexhibits: I’ve shown a speaker after the event the Tweets I sent – they are grateful

Involving the on-line, virtual audience came up as a theme:

  • ralaw33: I focus on sessions so customers not attending can be part of discussion. I tweet before to find sessions they are interested in. I love soliciting questions from followers and asking during Q&A. Presenters like it since it means audience participation
  • itsjustjana: Key take aways from the conversation or sharing a problem identified and asking for more feedback or the agree/disagree
  • kseniacoffman: I had good feedback on live-tweeting tours – especially if a few go on simultaneously, or not all can attend. Take lots of photos – great for people following virtually

Daily recaps will be popular, both with virtual and live attendees:

  • kseniacoffman: Daily recaps are very popular – I get a lot of traffic to these; takes effort though
  • tricomb2b: Agreed! @itsjustjana Yes, when i can’t attend a daily recap is event gold!
  • CASUDI: I really like to see daily recaps ~ from others at a show ~ with good info clipped from all the noise

There were a few contrarians who do not do much live tweeting from the event:

  • tracibrowne: I have to sit this question out – I can’t tweet and pay attention to the event.  I take notes and blog later
  • ASegar: Frankly, the better the event (for me, that means the more I participate) the less I tweet. But If I’m at a presentation I’ll tweet more if there’s a backchannel conversation going on

Don’t forget your manners:

  • tracibrowne: If all you are tweeting is criticism you are going to look like a [not a very nice person]

And most importantly:

  • b2bento: Tweet with event hashtag – immediately creates a community around the event.

Q3 summary: Blog & tweet with key takeaways, buzz or audience reactions; Lots of photos; Solicit questions from followers; Don’t forget the virtual audience.

Q4. How do you ensure effective follow up?

  • MaureenB2B: Key is to define, before the event, what your follow-up goals are. Do we want names or warm leads or other?
  • cuferg: Based on pre-show goals, segment booth visitors, cold/warm/hot and have plan in place to address each group.
  • fearlesscomp: Agree on lead definition. Gently nurture. Score for handoff. And provide sale with content too.
  • skylineexhibits: Improved follow-up starts at the show: Write down what attendees said so sales know & are motivated to follow up. Plan in advance the fulfillment, the team, and who is responsible. Blog post on this: http://bit.ly/cuSLM2
  • itsjustjana: Document your conversations. Who, where, what, when, why. All of it. Remind me why I was engaged and then sell me
  • kseniacoffman: Note on the back of biz cards what you talked about, what follow up is needed
  • ralaw33: Never thought of using phone to scan. Awesome! @itsjustjana: With business cards i either scan with my phone or text the info
  • tricomb2b: Have a desired outcome in mind and steer the conversation towards the goal
  • tracibrowne: Ask the visitor how they prefer to be contacted…then honor that
  • shotgunconcepts: Event hashtag is not just for the time of the conference. Continuing using in the days afterward to follow up without clutter

Q4 summary: Document everything – follow-up needed, when & where you met, photo/scan card with your phone!

Q5. Tips for staying sane and avoiding burn-out?

  • shotgunconcepts: Two conference essentials that most people don’t get enough of: water and sleep
  • tricomb2b: Know your limits and what you need to recuperate before getting back into the heat of things!
  • tracibrowne: Stock protein bars in the booth for your staff for a quick pick-me-up
  • ASegar: Yoga too! RT @KseniaCoffman: If you can, find time to exercise!
  • kpainc: Hydrate well before show; limit parties; eat right; plan meetings & specific booths to see; don’t walk exhibit floor to explore
  • Brandspiration: Schedule breaks, know where to find coffee & water, keep a positive attitude & have fun meeting ppl.

But all this “healthy living” and “balance” discussion was countered by the “work hard, play hard” camp:

  • AitchesonS: Boring! :) RT @phylliskhare: No parties. Go back to room, drink good water, eat something healthy, blog, and sleep.
  • skylineexhibits: Tough to avoid all the parties when that’s when some of the best networking happens
  • Edgemon72: I would say get 7 hours sleep and keep attentive! Great data available at parties if your not drunk or tired.

I will leave you with these words of wisdom as a summary:

tracibrowne: I tell people the day starts when coffee shop opens and ends when the last attendee leaves the bar. There’s plenty of time for rest and sleep when you get home. Squeeze every second you can out of the three or four days.

Does #b2bchat sound interesting? Join us for a lively discussion on B2B topics every Thursday at 8pm Eastern. Follow @B2B_chat for updates.

For other posts on social media topics, see:

By Ksenia Coffman – Connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

2 Comments »

  1. I love that you pulled the collective wisdom of the crowd together on this one. It’s like interviewing the warriors who won the battle. Networking events can be powerful times of connection building if done right.

    By far the biggest opportunity for gain is vendors staffing booths with energetic, engaging, highly-motivated people!

    Well done all,

    Don F Perkins
    http://donfperkins.com

    Comment by Don F Perkins — March 28, 2011 @ 2:21 pm | Reply

  2. Sorry I missed this chat — LOTS of good advice and insights here.

    As I tell clients and tradeshow trainees — thinking about a tradeshow or conference in terms of “the day of” is like thinking about an iceberg in terms of what you see above the water. It’s only part of it, and if you avoid thinking about (and handling) the rest of it, you are likely to have a very bad experience!!

    Comment by @D_Elms — April 7, 2011 @ 7:51 am | Reply


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