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dv1294002As winter blooms into spring, conferences and industry events pick up and stay strong until the fall. Industry events can either be small, intimate, and local, or they can be huge, international events. We’ve developed 6 tips to help you make the most of your industry trade shows and conferences.

1. Plan early. In order to get the best deals on both attending and exhibiting fees, plan early. The earlier you plan, the better rates you will receive. Planning early also gives you time to focus on your outbound marketing efforts. Start making lists of leads and companies and/or individuals who are in your target market or fall into the category of products and services you’re looking to fulfill. Planning your meetings in advance means that face-to-face time is maximized by being prepared for a meaningful conversation.

2. Announce your attendance. It may seem insignificant, but announcing your attendance through a basic press release over a newswire can help temporarily boost your SEO, and it can also catch the eye of local media. This tactic is especially helpful if your business operates in a small community, and you’re traveling to represent your company and inherently your city. Additionally, if you can put a unique angle on the reason for your attendance, that makes for a great news story.

3. Commission a study and release findings at the event. What’s trending in your industry? This is an opportunity to establish yourself as an industry thought leader. Again, it is important to plan early so you can gather information as well as develop and design how it will be presented, either in a brochure or one sheet. Show them how your services are the solution to the problems you found in your study. Also, note that it doesn’t have to be very intensive; it just needs to be relevant information that they can take away for free.

4. Host an event with a personal approach. While it’s possible to make great connections during conference hours, typically the best contacts are made after hours. Many industry events have cocktail hours, or social events after hours, but if not, or even if they do, a nice way to stand out from your competitors and get quality face time with your best prospects and colleagues is to host an after-hours event like a sit-down dinner.

5. Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers. Whether you are attending or exhibiting, approaching a perfect stranger can be uncomfortable. Just remember that many people at trade shows are there alone, and will gladly welcome a friendly smile and warm conversation. You never know who you may open up your world to when you strike up a conversation or invite someone to share your table at lunch. Trade show settings can be hectic and intimidating, so don’t be afraid to initiate the conversation.

6. Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. You went to the conference and you made tons of new contacts; don’t let your excursion away from the office be wasted time and money. Following up with all of your new leads is imperative. The best approach is to segment your contacts in groups by order of importance, and start with the most important, and then send brief thank yous and reminders of your encounter.

Heather Wied is the Marketing Director for Pubsoft,