Return On Sponsorship: Turn Event Connections Into Business With These Four Steps

Looking back at the events you’ve sponsored, how successful were you in building relationships with the people you met? Did those relationships turn into a business?

With so much going on at an event and the pressure of turning short-lived connections into long-term relationships, it’s common to either overdo or under-do it.

If you are highly end-goal focused, you may zero in on just a few “sure bet” connections in hopes of closing sales soon after the event. Or you might take the opposite approach of “going with the flow”—meeting as many as you can and leaving the hard work of actual relationship-building to the follow-up after the event is over.

In truth, neither the rushed or go-with-the-flow approaches are a great use of your time at the event. The value of an event is the face-to-face time you get with your prospects. Making meaningful connections with your prospects is vital to growing your pipeline.

Did you catch that? Making meaningful connections with your prospects is vital to growing your pipeline.

The best approach is to plan how you’re going to show up and build relationships at events, and we’re here to help.

Today we are sharing the four key steps you need to take in order to de-program yourself from the traditional ways of working a tradeshow or conference and make the most of face-to-face interactions with your ideal clients and customers.

STEP 1: STRATEGIZE

Before you even plan who or what you are going to bring to represent your company at an event, decide on your goals for the event. Your goals will dictate your strategy.

You may have multiple goals, but challenge yourself to hone in on one or two top goals and make them specific. Sure, you may want to build awareness, develop thought leadership, and make new connections.

But given the details of the event, what are the one or two goals that would make the biggest difference to your business if you accomplish them? Make those your goals for the event.

Make sure the goals are appropriate and achievable for the event—consider if what you want to accomplish can be done given the format of the event (is it mostly interactive networking or is it mostly sessions led from the stage), the length (is it one day or multiple days), the audience (is it a large, varied crowd or a small, intimate group), and the content agenda (is it focused on areas directly related to your business or is it tangential).

After detailing your goals, then your strategy for maximizing the event become clear. In other words, based on your goals, you’ll instantly know if you need to send a team of people from different functions, or if a few key top leaders from your company are better suited. You will know which activities at the event are the most important for you, if you have to choose. You will know what materials to bring, if any. You will know in advance what actions are most important at the event to bring you closer to your goals.

Knowing which actions you must take leads us to the next step…

STEP 2: GET SOCIAL

This step is perhaps the most critical and most often overlooked. Based on your experience at other business events, it can be so easy to fall into the same old “meet and greet” pattern we’ve all done when at events.

We all know the drill.

You start by walking around the room with your nametag consciously facing outward. You either join a conversation in progress or introduce yourself to whoever happens to be in front of you. You exchange a few pleasantries, get to talking immediately about who you work for and what you do and then after a couple of minutes of exchange, you politely excuse yourself to take a call or check an email message and hope that you run into them again later.

If you really want to maximize your first encounters, really focus on being present.

Focus on asking great questions and sharing great stories of your own. Forget about business for this first hour or the first day of the event. The more you can wear your friendly social hat at first, the better. Just be you and help other people you meet be themselves. Introduce them to other people you just met – channel your inner social butterfly.

When you make getting social your first priority, you break down the walls that keep your connections at a distance. Getting social first primes you and those you meet for a successful step 3…

STEP 3: DIVE IN

Only after you have spent some time getting to know a little more about the people you are surrounded by at an event do you want to move to step 3: Dive In.

You may think Diving In is where the focus shifts all back to you. On the contrary, diving in still keeps the audience you are mingling with at the center. The kind of diving in is about knowing even more about the people you meet as you get into the content of the event itself.

Pay attention to the things they comment on. Listen to the questions they ask. Notice which sessions they attend. Get involved in the discussions alongside the other event participants by asking compelling questions.

Take detailed notes! This may surprise you, but writing notes while you are actively participating in discussions helps to open your mind and improves your ability to make connections later. Diving in is all about getting the details that you can build on in your one-on-one conversations.

Finally, this step includes having one-on-one conversations with the right people—those people who asked the questions or shared stories that relate to your solution.

Even as you dive in to specific conversations with your now-friendly connections, be sure to keep the focus on them—listening, taking notes, asking great questions, seeking to understand—so that you can continue to filter, focus and select those individuals you want to spend a lot of time with through the next step.

STEP 4: ESTABLISH THE FOLLOW UP

Either toward the end of the event, or even at the end of a great deep dive conversation, be sure to establish the next steps on the spot. This is where you can start to share the results your company achieves for others in similar situations.

You can make introductions to others from your company or even to other participants who are your current customers.

If you’re not confident that they’ll accept an invitation for a follow-up meeting, try having a conversation about what the next steps could look like. By essentially co-designing with your new connection what kind of next step makes the most sense, you will ensure that the next step does not feel forced.

While you are on-site, aim to secure meetings, conversations, follow-up steps which will occur within a few days or a week of the event.

If you have followed all of these steps, beginning with getting social first and finishing the event strong with solid meetings and action plans in place, you will be well on your way to turning more event connections into new business deals and reaching your event marketing goals faster.

Let us know in the comments what you think about these steps, if you’ve tried them, and what has worked best for you. We’d love to keep this conversation going with your ideas too!

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