There's something special about conferences and trade shows. Pulsing with high energy and buzzing with possibility, you never know what lies ahead during a conference.
Whether you're going to learn about the latest industry trends, to make new connections, seal deals or simply get your brand name out there, endless opportunities about at conferences.
But with a heavy cost of admission and a wide variety of niche events, which ones are truly worth your time, and what's worth skipping?
Our resident thought leaders, the Business.com Market Experts, weigh in.
South by Southwest Interactive
Ricardo Casas: As the CEO of Fahrenheit Marketing, I lead all the strategy for business growth and don't have much time to spend on things that don't promise great return on investment (of time and money).
South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, TX is a solid investment of time. I have found tremendous value in the insights gained through some of the industry leaders talks and have myself had the opportunity to contribute to small portions of various engagements, typically resulting in some sort of retainer or consulting gig.
To make the most out of every conference/tradeshow, I believe you have to first be a great note taker and seek to implement the valuable insights you gain from industry leaders, but also, put on a bold face and go shake hands with industry peer and potential clients. Let them know what you've been up to and seek opportunities for collaboration. It all starts with an introduction.
Tom Drake: Being primarily in the personal finance niche, there are two conferences that are indispensable to me. FinCon is the premier event for personal finance bloggers, financial planners, and money media. Being Canadian, attending the Canadian Personal Finance Conference helps me niche down even further, meeting up with bloggers and companies that can directly benefit my readers.
Social Media Marketing World
Marisa Sanfilippo: Social Media Examiner's Social Media Marketing World is my go-to conference for social media and content marketing education. I had the opportunity to attend virtually in the past and got a lot out of it. I can only imagine the on-site conference being even more of a positive experience.
The conference features marketers I've been following for years, some of the best in the industry - Mari Smith, Jay Baer, Pam Moore, and the list goes on. The information you walk away with is priceless. It's A LOT of great information. My advice for making the most out of conferences and trade shows based off events I've attended in person? Sometimes you get more of an education from other attendees. Network, network, network. Get to know other attendees and check in with them after the event. Build long lasting relationships.
Inbound & Content Marketing World
In this day and age every brand is both a publisher and a storyteller. Brands need to build a content strategy and manage that strategy effectively. CMI offers some of the best and brightest content strategists and marketers who help shed light on creating highly compelling content, with purpose, that truly resonates with your target audience.
Inbound brings a range of well-known, cutting edge thought leaders to the conference, and ties all of the information together with inbound marketing and marketing automation as the lynchpin needed for brands to accelerate efforts and make marketing more efficient. A must-attend event!
Thanks, But No Thanks
Fergal Glynn: I've become somewhat of a conference curmudgeon. As a conference attendee I don't see the value in flying across the country for a Keynote I can already watch on YouTube. As a sponsor it's also hard to justify ROI. Gone are the days where I could report I got 1000 badge scans and my CEO would be happy. Instead, ROI needs to be shows in terms of $ in pipe, and that's a hard thing to attribute to a conference.
Virtual/on-line conferences, now that's a different story, I think that's the way forward.
Keep It Small
John Meyer: The smaller conferences are usual better for networking and knowledge sharing. I recommend coming up with a process of what you would like to get out of the conference and then have a personal debrief after the conference of 3 main items that you picked up and 3 contacts that you made at the conference. My favorite local one is www.nextthingnow.co .