Conferences are a big commitment for a firm. Not only are there many direct costs that come along with sending someone to an event — registration, flights, hotels — but there are indirect costs as well. Preparing for a conference takes a good amount of time and resources, so afterwards, you should be sure that you have tangible results.
Before the event: Get organized
Before deciding to attend an event, find out about the attendees. Many events have become flooded with service providers and may have the same attendees year over year. While many conference organizers will not be able to share a full attendee list with non-registrants ahead of the event, you should be able to get intel about the types of firms that will be there along with the seniority of registrants and the number of overall attendees.
Once you’ve registered, you should be able to get “the list.” Event attendee lists are extremely valuable and should be treated as so. Don’t just glance through to see if you recognize names, but take time to go through and research attendees prior to scheduling meetings. Sure, it may save you time on the front end to blindly set up meetings with as many bankers (or family offices or independent sponsors) as possible, but it won’t do much good if you get to those meetings and realize that your firms don’t work in the same space.
If you want a higher ROI, rank each firm on the list based on industry focus and deal size, as well as any other differentiators that are important to your firm. From there, set up meetings with the top-ranking attendees first. This will ensure that you have as many high-value meetings on your calendar as possible, and it may even leave some time on the calendar to have a few impromptu meetings once you’re there.
Finally, up the organizational ante by consolidating important information for the conference in your calendar, a spreadsheet, or a notes section in the conference app. This way you won’t need to worry about forgetting an important detail and being late or unprepared. Be sure to include the individual/firm that you’re meeting with — along with any notes or reminders — and the meeting location at the very least. If you can include a link to the venue map via the conference website or app, that’s a plus!
During the event: Make the most of every meeting
Now you’re here and you’ve likely got dozens of meetings over the course of a day or two. This could get messy. But it won’t, because you came well prepared.
Double check your meeting notes prior to each sit-down to ensure you have some good talking points for the conversation; showing that you did your homework will help your case and credibility.
As soon as you wrap things up, jot down notes from your discussion. You can do so on the back of the business card you collected, or even better, add it directly to your spreadsheet if you have time. Your notes don’t have to be deal-specific. Feel free to include personal snippets or commonalities that you can reference in future conversations.
After the event: Your work isn’t finished
Once you’re back in the office, set aside some time for conference follow-up. One of the worst mistakes when it comes to maximizing ROI is to dive back into your normal workload without properly logging and following up on meetings. If you’re going to take time to attend an event, take time to increase your likelihood of success.
Upload your meeting notes to your CRM and shoot a thoughtful email over to each person you met with, regardless of whether or not you think that there is a deal you can work on together in the short-term. Further down the line, that person could be a useful connection. If there is someone with whom you think you could do a deal, obviously follow up and discuss next steps.
Almost finished. The last step before determining your conference ROI is to decide on a success metric to your trip. Whether it’s a new contact, a signed NDA, or a new deal to review, attach a dollar value to that metric so you can see the value that came from the conference.
Total cost = direct cost + indirect cost
Direct cost = travel costs + conference ticket price
Indirect cost = number of hours spent prepping * hourly value
Generated value = success metric dollar value * number of times success metric was achieved
ROI = (Generated value – total cost) / total cost
Need a hand? Download our event ROI Excel template here.