How to Prepare for a Conference or Trade Show as an Event Sponsor

Conference booths

Sponsoring a conference or trade show is a great way to meet new prospects, make connections and increase awareness of your brand.

We at Crescendo have attended many conferences as vendors or sponsors. In that time, we’ve made many connections that have turned into long term deals. The same can be said of trade shows.

Sponsoring a conference, trade show or a tech event.

These events are important to many industries, Manufacturing, Pharma, Technology, etc, because they offer an opportunity to meet the right people face to face, present a product and in many cases, have the time to engage in meaningful conversation. It shortens the sales cycle by over 50% and therefore for us, it’s a vital marketing opportunity.

Being successful as an event sponsor isn’t straightforward. It takes a lot of preparation, some skill and consistent execution of good practices.

Crescendo has sponsored a number of conferences.  This is what we’ve learned:

 

Pre-Conference Preparations

Choose the right conference or trade show.

This is the most important step. And if this is your first time, it’s also a difficult step. Identify precisely what type of individuals you’d like to meet at your conference booth – their industry, job titles, seniority, etc. Find out which events those individuals attend to. Do your research.

For example, if you offer a product for sales and would like to meet sales professional, research deeper than the list of “sales conferences” in Google. Learn if the conference is focused on inside sales or outside sales. Is the conference geared specifically to a particular seniority in the organization, like executives or maybe sales reps? Is this a conference heavily focused on session learning or would participant also be heavily interested in new products on offer? This list can go on and on and, trust me,  if you make a bad decision here, your chances of success are slim.

Here’s an excellent way to identify the right trade show or conference; ask your existing clients where they go to. Most clients will be happy to give you a list of events and share some valuable insights.

Another way is to search through blogs, news and the LinkedIn profiles of your existing and prospective customers. You’ll learn which conferences they attend, hear their thoughts and sometimes even see videos or pictures of the actual event and venue.

Don’t focus on the biggest, most prestigious conferences in major cities. You and your team will not be able to talk to everyone at the event anyway. And chances are, many participants of a conference in a major city like San Francisco are actually local. Local attendees tend to drop in for a few sessions and leave. There may not be the interest in exploring what else the conference or trade show has to offer – like vendors.

For this reason, smaller conferences set in non-major cities tend to offer more participation from attendees. Attendees who take an effort to travel and stay at the hotel for a few days are more likely to be serious, engaged and have more time to talk to you.

Secure a good spot for your conference booth.

You want to secure a trade show booth spot that’s visible and gets a lot of traffic. We recommend booths locations that are close to the snacks area, or an entryway, or close to a high-value sponsor area if possible. Express your need to select a booth spot to the event organizers before signing the contract. If they don’t already have a site map available, they’ll remember your request. Don’t be one of the many sponsors that wait until the last moment to choose a booth spot. Be prepared to choose a booth location as soon as it’s offered.

We think it’s ok to just pay for the least expensive, smallest booth. The size of the conference booth doesn’t seem to matter, not nearly as much as its location.

Prepare materials for the event long in advance.

If this is your first time, you’ll probably need to design or adjust most, if not all, of your collateral. Start early, complete it with time to spare.

A single, well-designed one-pager or product catalog is better than an overwhelming number of leaflets, folders, cases studies, etc. Attendees are more receptive to a single sheet, than a booklet. Also, it’s important to tailor your message and visuals to the prospects you expect to meet at the event.

Ask yourself who will read your collateral and what information is relevant to them. Get rid of everything that isn’t important and focus on perfecting what’s left.

Pop up banners are important. If they are permitted at the event, use them. Make sure you have at least one permitted banner with a well crafted, eye-catching message and appealing visuals.

Attractive giveaways can be hit or miss. More extravagant swag will bring a lot of people to your conference booth, but will they be there to learn about your product?

The time and energy of your booth staff are limited and you don’t want to waste it on meaningless conversations with people who just want your swag.

Connect with key people beforehand.

If you rely on luck to meet your next big client, you may never succeed. Research the participants or the conference as early as possible and connect with the most interesting ones before the event, either through LinkedIn or, if available, the designated event app.

Secure a few appointments for a coffee, lunch or a demo of your product ahead of time.

Booth personnel matters

We’ve noticed that many sponsor booths are manned by junior, unengaged staff that often spend time texting and sometimes have very limited knowledge about the company’s products or services. The quality and professionalism of your booth personnel shouldn’t be taken for granted.

You need energized, friendly, and knowledgeable personnel who will proactively engage in conversations with potential leads. Quality lead generation at conferences is not about scanning as many badges as possible. Has your trade show booth manned by personnel that also believe this?

Install and setup Crescendo before the event.

Crescendo is truly the perfect tool for any conference or trade show. Many of our clients have told us that they can’t imagine going to any trade show without Crescendo on their iPads and iPhones.

Setup electronic versions of your collateral (leaflets, documentation, presentation, catalogs) and sync to Crescendo. Then add your company branding and connect with your Salesforce account so your leads go directly to your CRM.

Don’t have Crescendo license, register for a free trial and try it out.

 

At the conference

Get to the event early.

Sometimes, there is a pre-conference meeting the day before and sometimes not. Make sure you setup your booth, charge your devices, secure power supply. Get familiar with the venue and the event staff well before the event starts.

Once conference participants start getting in, you don’t want to be dealing with logistics. We’ve seen this one too many times from other vendors.

Do not rely on event lead capture tools.

Never ever rely solely on the lead capturing system provided by the conference organizer. In our experience, they fail in one way or the other during the event. Collect and give physical business cards or capture the leads directly into your own CRM.

Develop the habit of notes from the conversations you have as soon as it’s appropriate to do. You’ll need it to follow up after the conference and I guarantee you that you’ll forget some details without proper note-taking.

We usually write notes on the back of the lead’s business card directly after the conversation, but you can use a separate notepad, a CRM app or any other tool you like – like Crescendo.

Capture only real qualified leads. Save yourself the time of follow through on unnecessary contacts.

Be wary of the “Sales Hacker”

Every conference or trade show has a portion of “sales hackers” who come to your booth, ask questions about your product only to get an opportunity to give their pitch. Cut those conversations short. They are stealing your time and wasting your money.

Be there 100%.

You need to be fully present and focused at the event. Make sure you aren't interrupted with emails, phone calls or text messages. Be sure to have a good night’s sleep before the conference. Don’t drink alcohol in excess or party hard the night before.

Talking to dozens of new people and staying active and engaged for what sometimes is twelve hours non-stop, is very hard work. You’ll need to be the most energized version of yourself.

Push conversations as far as you can!

When you finally talk to the right person and the conversation goes well, keep going. Push it as far as you can. Give a demo, share a catalog or product whitepaper, schedule a follow-up time, etc.

Don’t worry about other prospects passing by, you won’t turn them all to clients anyway.

After the conference, follow up with your leads quickly.

Do not assume your lead will remember you weeks after the conference. Follow up quickly, before the memory of the conference fades away. Call your leads, email them, plan the next steps or follow up meetings.

At Crescendo, we’ve made the mistake of not following up soon enough. When you do get a hold of the lead, you spend half the time reminding them who you are. In fact, we’ve had a few leads go from being almost ready to sign the contract at the event, to after a month later, not remembering who we are. All because we were sloppy with follow-ups and waited a month later to follow up.

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