Why bother attending business conferences if you are not prepared to get your money’s worth? The most effective way to leverage the value of a conference is to actively follow-up afterwards. Solidify the things that you learned, new relationships, and new opportunities. Here is how:
Bring back useful information.
Before leaving the conference, purchase any helpful workshop tapes or CDs. Also bring back useful recordings of conference speeches and of sessions that you missed. The idea is to reinforce the conference content and to capture useful ideas/information that you missed.
Develop and execute an action plan.
One of the keys to leveraging a business conference is to create a post-conference action plan. The plan will consist of actions that will advance your pre-conference goals. If, for example, your goal was to identify three potential distributors for your firm’s product, you will want to follow-up with any distributors that you met. Post-conference actions like these will help you to flesh out potential opportunities, to build new relationships, and to take advantage of new ideas/information gained at the conference.
Review your pre-conference plan to see whether you failed to complete any items. If you can now complete these items, include them in your post-conference action plan.
Review the business cards that you collected. If you wrote follow-up memos on the backs of these cards, add these items to your plan. Also review the notes you took during the workshops and other sessions for items requiring follow-up. You now have a list of follow-up actions that you can prioritize and execute.
Remember to include in your post-conference action plan a plan to identify upcoming conferences that might be useful.
Send thank-you notes.
A good way to reinforce relationships is to send thank-you notes or other thoughtful messages. You can thank those you met at the conference for sharing their thoughts. You can also thank them for taking the time to introduce themselves and for discussing their firms. If you had the opportunity to meet speakers or panelists, you should thank them for sharing their insights and perhaps for clarifying specific points made during their discussions. Sending thank-you notes and cards will help you to stand out from the crowd and give you an opportunity to build new relationships.
Work the phone.
While thank-you notes are very useful, nothing beats a follow-up phone call. With a phone call you can continue discussions that you started at the conference. If you sense a potential opportunity, the phone is a better tool for a follow-up discussion.
Send out materials.
If you promised to send out information to anyone, do so in a timely manner. Send information that is helpful and that will reveal more about your firm. A great time to send information and to complete other follow-up items is in the week following the conference.
It is time to debrief.
When you return from the conference, a high-leverage activity is to give your colleagues a conference recap. The recap can take the form of a debriefing session or a memo. Highlight the key workshops, speeches and panel discussions. Discuss any new industry developments, new opportunities and new ideas. Talk about items requiring action and discuss follow-up. Coordinate with others who will help you to execute your post-conference action plan.
You have now covered all the bases. Each of these steps will help you to wring more value out of conferences. By implementing these few actions you will also significantly increase the effectiveness of your next conference.
George Parker is a co-founder, Director and Executive Vice President of Leasing Technologies International, Inc. (LTI). A twenty-five year industry leader, George is a frequent panelist and author of several articles and e-books, including “Using Venture Leasing As A Competitive Weapon” and “101 Equipment Leasing Tips”.