From the first time I attended a professional conference I fell hard and fast in love. ERE was my first taste of a conference in this industry but it was enough to whet my appetite for all things face-to-face networking.
Despite the fact that I and Red Branch Media have built a reputation on digital and social media, there is nothing that can replace the in-person meetings and rush you get from seeing clients, partners, and colleagues at a well-run conference.
At this year’s HR Technology conference, I brought a large chunk of the Red Branch Media team, we had several clients exhibiting, multiple clients attending and about 20 meetings set up. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was one of the toughest (but most rewarding) conferences of my life. I learned so much and I wanted to share it with you:
Preparation is essential.
Trying to pull together a last minute strategy for an event is doable but not easy. In fact, it might tax your team to the point of breaking. While this wasn’t an easy conference for Red Branch Media, getting ahead on blog posts, social content, email newsletters, strategic documents and office tasks helped us keep a skeleton crew at the office while we wandered the halls. Related: Conference wifi is never good. Not ever. EVER.
Your team matters.
If your team loves to be together and genuinely likes one another, it will SHINE through. While I’d like to think I built the Red Branch brand alone, the sheer amount of new fans that flocked to meet my team tell another story. When you select your conference team, do it carefully because you have to a) wear comfy shoes and b) represent!
Content for lead gen; booth for branding
Maybe you got a ton of leads at the conference, but our experience with outplacement friend and client Careerminds was that we got four times as many leads from a buyer’s guide we published the day before. The same held true across multiple types of content and different client offerings. We’re thinking? That’s a trend. On the other hand, many companies felt strongly that they should have a booth just to get the full conference experience. The answer? Recognize where to put your KPIs and how to measure post conference leads.
Ignore the haters
Gossip happens at these events and if you pay any attention to it at ALL, you will lose focus. For me and my team, these events are about winning new business and servicing our current clients to the best of our ability. I can confidently say that we did that only by taking every juicy tidbit that came our way with a Las Vegas size grain of salt.
When I started Red Branch Media I never wanted to ask people for business. Guess what? They rarely gave it to me. People want to feel that they should give you business because you are a nice gal who’s too shy to pounce. This year, I happily said hello to a lot of future clients. They may not know it yet, but RBM will soon be their agency of choice.
I know this seems counterintuitive to the point above. I had a great conversation with Sean Pomeroy, a wonderful client and the CEO of Visibility Software, who gave me some incredible advice about how and when to grow. Sean mentioned that while many companies have a plan for their failure or exit, far fewer have planned for what happens when success hits. Growing too fast by taking on clients that don’t fit our mold is not something we’re going to do. The HR Tech Expo floor was littered with the ghosts of companies who pivoted too many times or sucked funding through a straw until they became too bloated to be effective. No thanks!
Co-opetition is awesome
There are so many cool agencies serving the same market and there is definitely room for us all! I thoroughly enjoyed my conversations with Lizzie Maldonado of The Starr Conspiracy, Mary Ellen Slayter of Reputation Capital Media, Mark Willaman of Fisher Vista and of course Craig Fisher and Bill Boorman, who have the Midas touch. I’m beyond grateful that we’re in an industry that encourages these kinds of relationships.
Mentors are the BOMB!
I know the phrase “the bomb” is kinda 200-late but really – I owe darn near half of my book of business to people like Kelly Robinson, Gerry Crispin, John Sumser, Dave Mendoza, Brad Cook, Crystal Miller and Matt Charney. There are likely more that I am forgetting to name but please don’t be mad – I will remember in a future post! These people are incredible growers of my company and I will be forever grateful.
What the fox said
You need a catchy way to tell your story. In a conference setting, being able to concisely say what you do, who you do it for and how you do it, becomes crucial. I cannot tell you how many people I spoke to who didn’t seem to grasp that you lead with the elevator pitch, then answer follow up questions based on the prospect’s questions. You don’t just vomit up every piece of info the minute they stroll up to your booth. And if the lady is wearing heels? Bonus points for making it quick or inviting her to take a seat. Just saying.
Our elevator pitch? “Red Branch is a marketing and advertising agency for recruiting and HR Technologies.”
Editor’s Note: Watch this space for other #hrtechconf material. From cool ways to learn from the HR Technology Conference without actually having attended, awesome contests and learnings from our clients, how to work the press without ever setting foot in the press room plus reviews to ALL the software I demoed, and a roundup of great posts from the week.