While a sales conference can reignite your fire and provide an abundance of new insights and tools, it can also be a chaotic experience. The better prepared you are to hunt for useful insights, information and connections, the more you’ll come away with. Some of the most common frustrations surrounding conferences include coping with speakers and panels who don’t fully cover a topic, finding time to network and even gaining insight from talks that don’t seem immediately relevant.
5 Common Conference Frustrations and How to Resolve Them
1.“The speaker was talking at the audience, not with the audience.”
Experience and knowledge doesn’t always equate to a good speaker or a good presentation. If you have questions or feel like the speaker only cracked the surface of the topic they presented, wait until after the session and talk to them. You may also be able to set up a time to meet later or gather their contact information to follow up afterwards.
Most speakers won’t be able to resist expanding on a topic they touched on but did not have time to cover in detail. Complimenting something about their talk and then asking for a moment when it’s convenient allows you to not only dig deeper, but to make a valuable new connection as well.
2. “I didn’t learn anything in that session.”
Some speakers are better than others at relaying comprehensive amounts of information. If you want the speaker to expand on a point, ask! Most sessions offer Q&A periods afterwards and many speakers build in time for questions during a presentation as well. Asking a specific question and providing a concrete example of what you’re looking for can help you get more detailed and helpful answers.
If you are attending a panel session and one panelist has dominated the discussion, directing your question to a specific member by name can also help generate more useful and diverse information. Panel sessions are most helpful when you can gather insight from each expert on the stage. You may need to ask a direct and pointed question to bypass the most talkative or outspoken panel member.
3. “Everything sounded cool, but what does it mean for me?”
You may not have an immediate need for the news, trends or tips shared, but knowing this information can help you stay on top of what your clients might need in the future. If you have clients at the show, being able to address the points or topics that came up in panel sessions or classes can give you an edge. Simply knowing what your client might be thinking about or looking for can help you meet their needs.
Keep clients top of mind as you go through each session. How can you implement X for your client to make the biggest impact, and what topics would they most like to hear about? Looking beyond your personal interests and thinking about implementation can help you make the most of sessions or experiences that are not directly related to your work.
4. “We don’t provide those services so it doesn’t apply to our business.”
Every conference you attend may not relate to your product or service perfectly, but could overlap with your industry or even provide valuable insight about your prospects’ needs. Heading off to an event that covers products or services your clients need and use can pay off in terms of networking and visibility. Clients who see you at the conference will understand you are in the know about their industry and that you have an awareness about their needs and concerns.
You can also pick up useful ancillary information that may help you refine your approach or give you a reason to get in touch with specific prospects at a conference that may not seem to be an ideal match right away. Take the time to connect with some targeted clients or prospects in your funnel the week before the conference and you may be able to schedule some time to meet with them on site, creating a new sales opportunity as well.
5. “Between the vendors and other attendees, I didn’t know where to start with networking.”
You only have a few days to make an impression, and limiting yourself to just official business is a mistake. Make sure you sign up for some of the social events and gatherings; every conference has them. Most venues also have an onsite restaurant, lounge or hospitality suite that becomes a gathering spot as well. Spend time in these popular zones to increase your chances of networking when other attendees are feeling more relaxed and social, too.
From the official cocktail hour to a morning continental breakfast or coffee chat, taking time to network during these “off hours” allows you to make more connections and get a better ROI from your trip. If you are not a natural extrovert or need a little help getting started, making some connections before the show can help. Email speakers or attendees you’d like to talk with or connect with them on LinkedIn. Having someone you wish to network with recognize your name or the name of your business can give you a great starting point.
Have an ‘elevator speech’ ready to go, identify some potential targets you’d like to talk with and be open to people who approach you. Any vendor or attendee could make a valuable connection, but you won’t know until you take the time to chat and network.
Heading to a conference ready to connect and with an open mind can help you stay focused and make the most of the experience. From making personal connections with panelists and speakers to looking at the event from your clients’ perspective, you can make the most of your next conference experience.