ROI Industry conferences are an excellent way to meet potential clients face-to-face to create potential sales relationships, that could convert more quickly than establishing relationships through email and phone interactions alone. But with the endless list of hospitality industry conferences and events happening every year, how can you earn the most ROI from each event? 

Here are three tips to help you increase your company’s visibility, shorten your sales cycle and boost sales by attending conferences and industry events. 

Tip one: Choosing the best conference to suit your goals choosing your events should be based on your ideal client or target audiences. Decide which conferences are most appropriate for you based on:

• Are you trying to sell to independent or branded properties?

• What product or service are you offering? 

• Is there a great deal of education necessary to communicate your key USPs (unique selling proposition)?

• What is your budget for these types of events? 

“Quality over quantity” should be your go-to adage when paring down your list. Unless you have an unlimited marketing budget or very close to it, my recommendation is to select the top two to three conferences that are well attended by your target customers.

Tip two: Determining your involvement after selecting the optimal events for accomplishing your company’s specific marketing goals, there are two different options for involvement: exhibiting and/or speaking – both of which have advantages and disadvantages. 

Exhibiting

If you have the budget, your company should be exhibiting during the trade show portion of the top industry conferences. To stand out from the crowd of other exhibitors means creating a booth with strong branding and engaging visuals – the larger, the better! Do your due diligence before the conference by spending time and energy developing collateral that appeals specifically to the attendees of each event. Connect with your marketing list and invite them to arrange a meeting and/or demo at your booth during the event. 

It’s also important to incentivize guests to visit your booth. Both free food and cocktails (happy hour anyone?!) are always very popular incentives for conference attendees; if your budget allows, organize a cocktail party at your booth or a private, all-expenses-paid dinner at an offsite location for key sales targets. Tell everyone that you communicate with both before and at the event about your event to encourage as many attendees as possible. 

Once you’ve got potential customers at your booth, collect business cards or contact info from every attendee. To do so, simply introduce yourself and give your business card to each visitor, and more likely than not, they will reciprocate, or, if you are looking for something more creative, you could offer a raffle entry as an incentive. 

Speaking opportunities

In addition to exhibiting, or in lieu of exhibiting if your budget doesn’t allow for it, apply for your spokesperson to be a keynote speaker or to participate in a panel at the events. Being a presenter gives your company increased visibility to a larger audience of potential clients and establishes you and your company as an expert in your chosen subject matter. This increases brand awareness and builds trust, making potential clients more likely to respond favorably to your sales pitch at a later date. Speaking engagements are also an effective way to secure trade media coverage.

You will need to plan in advance to book a speaking opportunity, as most organizers start planning the event’s educational schedule, including keynote speakers and panel topics/presenters six months to a year in advance of the conference date. As such, you must apply to be a presenter a minimum of six months prior or you risk missing out on the opportunity. 

Check out the conference’s website for application details or, if it is not yet listing information as the website may not be ready that far in advance of the event, reach out to the conference organizers directly by email. Some conferences will require a specific format for the application, while others will only request an outline of your planned topic and bio to confirm your expertise. 

In either case, you will need to present a unique, clear-cut topic/angle for your proposed speech to be considered. When planning your topic, consider what information event attendees would be most interested to learn about your area of expertise and create your proposed speech around that topic. The more interesting or unique your topic, the more likely you are to secure a speaking slot at the event.  

Tip three: Don’t forget about trade media outreach.

Finally, conferences are a great opportunity to secure media coverage for your company and product/service with hospitality trade publications. Trade media from around the world cover most large industry events/conferences so they will be actively searching for stories to cover.

Media exposure not only generates on-site visibility, as many publications will publish a daily magazine sharing news from each day of the event, but also gives your company an opportunity to cultivate stronger relationships with media. As with potential clients, journalists are more likely to cover your news going forward once you’ve established a face-to-face connection. 

In most cases, especially if you are a confirmed exhibitor and sometimes even if you are just attending, the event organizer will share the list of confirmed media attendees if you reach out one to two months prior to the event date. At the same time, ask the organizers about their procedures for issuing media passes as well, in case you can encourage other media sources from your list to attend. 

As with developing an engaging speaking topic, it’s important to create an interesting media angle before you begin to pitch to secure the most coverage possible. Are you at the event to launch a new product? Has your company switched gears in a new strategic direction? Are you hosting an exciting event at your booth? Is your product an operational game-changer for hotels? Any of these topics would be of particular interest to media covering the event. 

It’s important to schedule a specific meeting time with the journalist before the conference; in fact, many journalists have their schedules booked weeks before the event so don’t leave your outreach until the last minute. As you execute your media outreach, create a detailed schedule for your spokesperson; include the important information for each interview (i.e. outlet name and description, website link if applicable, name/title/contact info for the journalist, story angle, whether a demo has been requested, etc., and update the schedule in real-time as new media interviews are confirmed. 

To capitalize on the valuable daily conference magazine issues, which can drastically increase foot traffic to your booth, the importance of preparedness cannot be underestimated; most journalists are on a very short deadline, as they need to do the interviews and then write all of his/her stories before the end of each day. As such, you should prepare any necessary visuals; i.e. images, headshots, videos, etc. and both printed and e-media kits beforehand.  

There you have it: a complete guide to getting the most ROI from each industry event you attend. If you have any questions about the benefits of participating in industry conferences/events or to find out how JLNPR can help your company at an upcoming event, please contact me at jenn@jlnpr.com. If you are interested in learning how to do your own PR, please download JLNPR’s free guide: “How to Use PR to Boost Sales – Without Blowing Your Budget”.

By Jennifer Nagy, President of JLNPR Inc.

About JLNPR Inc.

Jennifer NagyJLNPR Inc. is a full-service public relations and marketing agency that lives and breathes all facets of the travel technology industry. From online travel agencies to revenue management systems, tablet-based aviation automation solutions to IFE technology, hotels to airlines and everything in between, JLNPR uses our knowledge and experience to get your B2B travel technology company noticed by media, influencers and potential customers – and whenever possible, without the overused, often abused press release. In addition to traditional media relations outreach, we also ghost-write exciting, informational copy that will be published (in our client’s name) by top hotel industry media outlets – in order to increase your company’s visibility with potential customers, boost brand awareness and increase sales. To learn how to do your own PR for your company, download JLNPR’s free guide: How to Use Public Relations to Boost Your Sales – Without Blowing Your Budget. To find out more about JLNPR (including our services and out-of-the-box philosophy on press releases), please visit www.jlnpr.com.