How to Squeeze the Value Out of Conferences

Conferences can be invaluable tools for your career

black conference goersConference season is in full swing, and I’m excited about traveling to different cities and meeting other entrepreneurs all over the country who are just as committed as I am about succeeding in business.

Last week, my company’s client hosted INSIDE EDGE – a small business conference for entrepreneurs who are looking to sell to the corporate market. I was fortunate to attend and be able to watch my client’s vision come to life as over 400 small business owners from around the country received inspiration, business motivation, and developed valuable new contacts.

Well almost everyone.

During one of the many coffee breaks, I struck up a conversation with a local business owner who came to the conference in hopes of learning about breaking into corporate. As I glanced at my growing stack of business cards, I asked her who all she’d met. She mentioned two people – the person sitting next to her and one of the speakers.

Dumbfounded, I packed up my notebook. I was confused. Just by being friendly and saying hello to each smiling face, I’d amassed a potential new network of clients and partners. Why hadn’t she? Why were our experiences so different?

After thinking about it, I realized that it was because our mindset about what conferences are and what they’re not are so different.

Here are four ways to shift your thinking so that you can get the most out of conferences.

Conferences are so much more than learning opportunities. I used to attend conferences solely for the information. After becoming a frequent speaker at conferences myself, I realized that no matter what the speaker shares or doesn’t share in any specific talk, there’s a lot of value being created off the stage. While conferences certainly are a great place to learn and get an infusion of new ideas, they are more than that. What you’re really getting when you register for a conference is not only the quality of the speakers on stage, but also the quality of the audience. When you attend conferences put on by certain people or organizations, you immediately gain access to a network of people who are attracted to them.

For example, if you are a business owner who sells a luxury product or a premium service, it makes sense to seek out luxury brands like Rolls Royce or Mercedes Benz and attend their events. Just by being in the room, you can meet others who have similar values.

Registration price matters. I used to think that I could not afford to attend conferences that were hundreds or even thousands of dollars. But my new mindset is that I cannot afford not to. Think about it… when you attend an expensive conference, you’re also meeting other people who can afford to attend expensive conferences. This is particularly important to me because most people cannot afford PR services because they’re a significant investment for a budget conscious consumer. However, once I started attending more expensive conferences, I started meeting people who had a reasonable amount of disposable income, commitment to their business growth and a willingness to invest in my valuable services.

One new idea or relationship can make everything worthwhile. You may get just one new idea that can change everything for you. For me, the price of a $1000 conference can be justified if just one of the speakers offers me a new way of seeing my business, or offers me just one strategy that I can immediately put into action in order to make more money.

Be ready to buy, but also ready to sell. Powerful conference attendees not only come to the conference ready to learn, but they are also there ready to make a sale or two of their own. At the client conference I mentioned earlier, I met and was overly impressed by the marketing acumen of LaShawne Holland and Darnyelle Jervey. These are two smart businesswomen who, when I asked what they were up to during a coffee break, promptly pulled out marketing postcards about their upcoming events. Neither of these businesswomen graced the stage at this particular conference, but they did not let  that stop them. Since they knew they’d be coming face to face with their target market, they came prepared. I’m sure they will see registration increase.

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