Peter Barber
Executive VP, Business and Account Development

6 Tips to Get More Out of Marketing Conferences

Make sure you're maximizing your professional benefits

My Lipman Hearne colleagues and I attend a lot of industry conferences, and we’ve become pretty good at figuring out how to get the most out of each experience.

As we enter the fall conference season, we thought it would be helpful to share some of our favorite tips. Think of it as the insider’s guide to getting maximum ROI from your conference investment, without driving yourself crazy in the process.

  1. Pick Your “Must-Dos” Long Before You Head to the Airport
    This seems like a no-brainer, but many folks show up to a conference on day 1 and really have no clue which sessions they should participate in. It’s always smart to carefully review the conference’s detailed agenda well in advance of your departure, and to select clear “must do” sessions that you believe will be your best learning opportunities. If you’re traveling with a colleague, compare each other’s “must do” sessions in advance, and consider picking alternatives if you’ve both selected the same priorities – that way you’ll expand the learning opportunities for you both, and for your organization as well.
  1. Sit & Share with Strangers
    While I love traveling with my coworkers, at a conference I’ll often slip away from our group and sit with people I’ve never met. It’s not hard to do – most conference attendees welcome the chance to meet new people, and you already have enough in common with them to have a conversation (i.e., you’ve ended up in the same session at the same conference for the same industry). I’ve sometimes learned as much from my fellow attendees as I have from conference presenters. And more often than not, I’ve made a new friend or two that I still stay connected with, long after the conference has ended.
  1. Access the Presenters’ Material
    Most marketing conferences provide their attendees with online access to the conference’s presentation materials. And most conference attendees fail to take advantage of this opportunity! Be sure to get the links and codes you’ll need to download some of the great content you’ll have seen for future viewing and sharing when you get back to the office. This is also a great way to “see” some of the sessions that you might not have time to physically participate in.
  1. Like the Presentation? Then Meet the Presenter
    If you’re blown away by a presentation that you’re participating in, stick around when it’s over to introduce yourself to the presenter. Every presenter I’ve interacted with has always been willing to share more with the attendees who demonstrate the greatest interest in their topic. Some will give you copies of their research studies, or their books, or will connect you with other professionals that you can learn from. And of course, they appreciate your feedback – so if you loved their talk, let them know.
  1. Talk to the Expo Hall Exhibitors
    Most conferences have expo halls so attendees and the companies that market to them can connect face to face. Many of these vendors have a lot of experience to share. While you may have worked at three different colleges or four different hospitals, the average vendor partner will have that experience times ten. Take some time to introduce yourself to a few vendors, and you’ll probably learn as much as you do in some of the conference’s seminars and presentations.
  1. Don’t Eat in Your Room
    Nothing is more depressing than going to an out of town conference, spending your days in thought-provoking seminars and exciting conversations, and then…eating a Subway sandwich and chips alone in your room for dinner. Just about everyone at your conference is also from out of town, also on a budget, and also in need of dinner, so you’re absolutely not alone. Suggest a dinner idea to some of the folks you sat with earlier in the day, and the odds are great that they’re going to be interested. And you’ll have plenty to talk about as you recap some of the powerful insights you’ve learned throughout the conference already.

Want more marketing pro advice from Peter? Check out 9 Tips for Writing a Great RFP.