The Pre-Conference Playbook
Updated Jan 31, 2024
Published Feb 12, 2020
Summary - Get ready for your next big conference with Knak's comprehensive Pre-Conference Playbook: Planning, engagement, and post-event strategies.
Ready, Set, Goals
We’re getting ready for Adobe Summit 2020, and since our to-do list is at least a kilometer long, we thought we’d share it with you in case you’re getting ready for a conference of your own.
Here’s a look at our pre-, mid-, and post-conference to-do list.
If you want a good return on your conference investment, you need to set yourself up for success. This is the time when you literally need to think of everything so nothing falls through the cracks.
Set goals – Before you start planning, define what success looks like for your team. Is it a certain number of scanned leads? Booked demos? Customer connections? Closed deals? Keep in mind that it’s not always about closing deals. The good will you build by connecting with prospective and existing clients can be just as impactful as anything else you’ll do there.
Prioritize booth location – It’s a key factor in your success at the show, so do your research and choose wisely. Exhibit Edge has an interesting article on the Psychology of Traffic Patterns if you’re looking for some insight here.
Evaluate sponsorship options – A good sponsorship increases brand visibility, but even if it’s in your budget, be strategic and evaluate sponsorship in terms of your long-term goals for the show.
Scout out the other attendees – Which of your tech partners will be there? Connect with them ahead of the event, and look for co-branding opportunities. Does it make sense to host coffee/dinner/drinks together or to co-sponsor a session? If your budget is limited, teaming up with a partner is a great way to stretch your dollars further.And while you’re scouting, find out which of your competitors are also exhibiting.
Start designing – Design show-specific signage, pop-ups, handouts, and animations. Decide what swag you want to hand out, and order as needed.A note here: depending on the show you’re attending, it might make sense to rent two smaller booths in different areas instead of one large one. It will double your exposure and allow you to stage more intimate settings for demos and one-on-one conversations.
Plan VIP events – Work with your sales team to identify clients and prospects who either live close to the event or are planning to attend, and invite them to a special event. This doesn’t need to be elaborate, but decide what you want to do and start researching venues early so you get what you need.
Promote like crazy – Get the list of attendees from the conference a month or two before the event, and get to work:
- Cross reference the company list with your existing customers and prospects.
- Reach out to your contacts at those companies and extend a personal invitation to meet up at the event.
- Promote your attendance, sessions you’re speaking at, and events you’re hosting on social media/LinkedIn. Include your booth location, offer a giveaway, etc to help drive traffic.
We use “opt in” buttons on our event emails and landing pages to build a list of attendees, and then we use the list to book 1-on-1 meetings, schedule customer testimonial videos, and send invites to our VIP events.
Make a list – Your list may vary, but these are our booth must-haves for every event.Provided by the venue:
- High-speed internet
- A TV
- Power supply
- Carpet padding
Brought (or shipped) by Knak:
- Handouts/business cards
- Booth display
- Shirts for booth staff
- Snacks/water for foot traffic
Clarify roles – A divide and conquer approach is your friend at large events. We’d encourage you to make a master list of all the roles that need to be filled, and then work with your team to fill in the blanks. Don’t assume people know who is doing what. Spell it out and get buy-in from your team before you go.
Strategize – Develop a strategy for driving traffic at your booth. Host giveaways, stage a friendly competition, provide snacks, etc.
Get your team together – Hold a pre-show strategy session with your entire team. Cover:
- Your goals for the event
- Which VIPs/customers/prospects are attending
- Your strategy for driving traffic at your booth
- Your elevator pitch and booth talking points (to ensure consistency)
If you’ve done the leg work, you should have a solid game plan in place for the event. The bulk of the work is going to fall into the pre-event category, so once you’re there, you should be able to focus on your clients and prospects. Here are a few things to do while the event is happening:
Leverage social media – Have someone on your team live-tweet the event, post pictures on social media, and use geo-targeted ads to bring people to your booth.
Work your strategy – Whatever you planned to drive traffic at your booth, make it happen, and take notes on what’s working well.
Pre-book – Most conferences offer a significant discount and priority booth selection if you book next year’s show during the current one. If there’s a possibility you’ll want to exhibit again next year, consider reserving your spot before you leave.
Collect data – If you’re going to have accurate records, you need to be diligent with your data collection. Scan badges and build your list while you’re there so you can follow up accordingly once you’re home.
Keep your goals in mind – Connect with your team throughout the event and do a quick review of your pre-show goals. Are you still in alignment? Is everything on track? Adjust as needed, but make sure you’re all still working towards the same thing.
Once the event ends, the debriefing starts. Get together with your team the week after you return and revisit the details.
Take notes – It’s easy to assume you’ll remember what happened, but good records are vital. Make note of what worked, what didn’t, and what you want to try next year, so when it’s time to plan for the next event, you can use your own insight.
Track your leads – A prospect you met at the conference may end up converting months down the road. If you’re properly tracking the data you collected, your attribution reporting will be accurate and you’ll have a more complete picture of the ROI for the event.
Follow up – Follow up with prospects, new leads, and existing clients quickly. Send supplemental information, tell them you’re glad you met, book a demo, etc. If you have a recent blog post or other piece of content that relates to the conference, send it out to attendees and let them know you thought they might like it. Just be genuine and thank them for their time.
Checklist Template? Check.
Conferences check a bunch of boxes for us, so even though exhibiting at one requires a significant investment, the returns are worth it.
You can read more about how to select a conference in our recent blog post, but if you’ve already got one on the books, we want to help make your planning as easy as possible.
Download our free Conference Checklist Template, and personalize it to suit your event. Be prepared, and get as much as you can out of your trip.