Conference season is quickly approaching. If you want to get the most out of your conference attendance, you need to be prepared. In Part 1 of this two-part series, Jerod and Demian offer advice on how to approach a conference when you are there with a primary goal of promoting your product or service.
The conversation begins with a caveat: nothing is more important than networking at a conference. That must be understood.
Assuming you are meeting people and making connections and contacts, there are several steps you can take to ensure that you promote your product or service as effectively as possible.
In this 23-minutes episode you’ll discover:
- The importance of plan ahead and having a gameplan
- The impact of having unique, identifiable, memorable swag
- Why offering special incentives can induce the urgency and/or scarcity people need to act
- Why you need to know the audience of the conference and adapt your pitch
- The importance of being a part of the conference, not just a sponsor
- The benefit of getting as many people involved as possible
Enjoy this week’s episode. Part 2 comes next week.
The Show Notes
Getting the Most Out of a Conference When You’re There to Promote, Part 1
Jerod Morris: The best of the best. The cock of the walk. That’s us.
Demian Farnworth: Spend a few minutes with you, and we’ll be wearing gold diapers, right?
Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media. I am one of your hosts, Jerod Morris. I also host The Showrunner. I’m joined as always by Demian Farnworth, host of Rough Draft.
Demian, how are you today?
Demian Farnworth: I’m great, man. It’s good to be here. I’m looking forward to Dallas — or what is it, Fort Worth? Podcast Movement, to see you.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, Fort Worth. Yeah, Podcast Movement. We’ll get to see each other Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We will be attending Podcast Movement, and actually, I want to let folks know real quick, the event’s coming up way too soon for people who don’t have tickets and travel plans yet to attend, unless you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area …
Demian Farnworth: Mm-hmm.
Jerod Morris: If you don’t, but you still want to check out the presentations and learn the information presented at Podcast Movement, they actually have a virtual ticket. If you go to PodcastMovement.com/Register, you’ll see the virtual ticket there. I just wanted to alert folks to that.
I’ll be presenting. Jonny Nastor, my co-host on The Showrunner, will be presenting. Obviously, the keynote speakers are great. John Lee Dumas, Marc Maron, Sarah Koenig from Serial — they’ll all be presenting. With the virtual ticket, you can check out a lot of the presentations, so check out PodcastMovement.com/Register for that.
Demian Farnworth: The gal from Serial podcast will be there?
Jerod Morris: Yeah. Sarah Koenig. She’s going to be presenting.
Demian Farnworth: Is this podcast thing business/marketing focused or is this open across the board? Like, cultural, sports, politics, that sort of thing too? Does that Podcast Movement include all that?
Jerod Morris: Yeah, it’s open. Now, there are a lot of sessions that will focus on some of those specifics and focus on the marketing and the business side of it, but it’s very open. There’s going to be podcasts from all different walks of life and topics.
Demian Farnworth: Oh. Neat, neat.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, which is what’s going to make it a really cool event.
Demian Farnworth: If people are looking to do a podcast or are interested in podcasting but not necessarily for a business objective, it’s still something that would be interesting to them?
Jerod Morris: Oh yeah. For sure.
Demian Farnworth: Cool. Good. That’s awesome.
Jerod Morris: For sure. It got me thinking about the fact that we’re going to be there and then reflecting on our experience from Authority Rainmaker, which is a conference that we were planning, obviously, and were hosting the conference.
Now, we’re attending a conference, and there’s really two different reasons why we’re attending this conference. We are the platinum sponsor for this conference, so if you go to PodcastMovement.com/Sponsors, you’ll see Rainmaker Platform. We are the top billing. The platinum sponsor.
Demian Farnworth: Platinum is the top.
Jerod Morris: Platinum is the top.
Demian Farnworth: No higher than the platinum.
Jerod Morris: That’s right.
Demian Farnworth: Nice.
Jerod Morris: The best of the best. The cock of the walk. That’s us.
Demian Farnworth: Right. Spend a few minutes with you, and we’ll be wearing gold diapers. Right? Gold diapers, baby.
Jerod Morris: I got a fever.
Demian Farnworth: Yeah. Where’s my cowbell at?
The Two Sides of Conference Attendance
Jerod Morris: It got me thinking. Obviously one of our big goals is going to promote the Rainmaker Platform, and since part of what we do at The Showrunner is The Showrunner Podcasting Course, clearly we want to promote that, too, because we have a launch coming up on August 3rd. Obviously, it’s podcasters, and it’s potential showrunners, so we want to promote that course, too. That’s one goal.
Then, of course, we have a goal of going there to learn. You’re a podcaster. I’m a podcaster. Jonny is a podcaster. This room is going to be filled with experienced podcasters and showrunners, people who are creating remarkable content, and we want to learn from them.
That’s why I thought there are really two sides of conference attendance, right? You can go there if you’re promoting something, if you’re a sponsor. You also go there to learn — to learn from the presentations, to learn from the people that are there. This is part one of a two-part series we’re going to do today and next Tuesday about these two sides of conference attendance. Really, it’s about how to prepare yourself mentally, physically, your supplies, everything you need to get the most out of the conference based on what you’re going there for. You may be going there for both sides, like we are. We’re going to dive into that.
Today we’re going to talk about the promoting side of it … I want to preface this conversation by talking about the one big idea, the one goal that applies to both.
No matter why you’re going to a conference, the one thing to always keep in mind is networking. That means when you’re at a conference, meet people, make connections and talk to people. Because the connections that you make are going to be more important than the products that you sell or the knowledge that you learn.
Demian Farnworth: Mm-hmm.
Jerod Morris: You think about it — you might meet a future business partner at a conference. You might connect with an audience member who someday recommends you to their list of 100,000 at a conference. You might have a conversation with someone who changes your perspective and helps you deliver a better, more nuanced content to your audience. Right? The benefits of networking are endless, so I think it’s important to always remember that.
Any conferences that you’re going to — whether they’re content marketing conferences, business conferences, whatever it is — yes, you may be promoting something. Yes, you want to be there to learn. But don’t forget that the single greatest benefit you can get out of it is networking and making personal connections.
Demian Farnworth: You know what?
Jerod Morris: Yeah?
Demian Farnworth: What were you going to say?
Jerod Morris: I was just going to ask you before we delve into the promoting part if you have anything you wanted to add.
The Benefits of Cultivating Camaraderie with Fellow Conference-Goers
Demian Farnworth: I was going to say I’m not a big conference goer, but whenever I’ve gone, had to go — at least this is my tendency — is to find a few people and latch onto that group and not deviate from that, because it’s always an experience. With that many people around for that amount of time, it can be traumatic in some sense. So I always view it as an experience where you really connect with these people because you’re going through the same experience together, so there becomes a camaraderie between you and those people that really lasts.
There’s a number of people who I still know — not close by any stretch of the imagination — from conferences I went to years ago because we lived together for two to three days straight and had an experience. I always hear — and this is going to sound really bad — people who survive tragic events together form a lifelong bond, and I’m not saying that a conference is a catastrophic event, but it can be for an introvert.
Jerod Morris: All the introverts are nodding right now.
Demian Farnworth: The plane goes down in the Peruvian forest, and the survivors then live for three weeks together, and it’s a lifelong bond. The D-Day soldiers — that was a club that lasted for a lifetime.
In some sense, I always remember those people, because you think in the world of social media where we’re making ‘connections’ all the time and we’re getting followers and having ‘conversations,’ I don’t think it really gels until you actually meet these people in person and you talk, just get to know them. You dive beneath the superficial and really get to know these people.
I remember, I went to a conference in Las Vegas, and I latched onto this little group. One of them was a lawyer who loved to gamble and stuff like that, and he would say, “Hey, give me 20 bucks. I’m going to go to the tables and buy our dinner tonight.” A $300 bill, he’d go win and pay for it. I spent no money.
Jerod Morris: Oh my. Now I can see how a conference in Las Vegas might be a traumatic experience that you share forever.
Demian Farnworth: There were other places, too.
Jerod Morris: Okay, so the big idea: no matter why you’re going to a conference, you may feel like you’ve accomplished something if you’ve given your pitch or if you’ve taken a lot of notes, but you haven’t really maximized the experience unless you’ve made personal connections. It’s not just, “Hey, hello” handshakes, but find some people to talk to you get to know whose names you remember, whose faces you remember, that you end up doing some work with. That’s how you really get the most benefit out of a conference. Whatever we say, from this point forward over the next two episodes, just know that nothing supersedes the importance of networking.
Demian Farnworth: Mm-hmm.
The Importance of Planning Ahead and Having a Game Plan
Jerod Morris: That said, let’s dive in to the promoting side of it. Let’s say that you are a sponsor for a conference. Maybe you have a booth. You have something you’re going to promote. For this example, we’re going to Podcast Movement. We have the Rainmaker Platform.
This is a platform that is built to help podcasters not just publish and distribute their podcasts, but build an entire digital sales and marketing machine around their podcasts, to build a digital business. It’s a perfect product for the audience, and as I said, we also have The Showrunner Podcasting Course, so there’s really two different products that we have to promote and this great audience to promote them with.
Jessica will be there helping us out. Every time we go through one of these events, whether it’s Authority Rainmaker, whether it’s this one, I always learn so much from Jessica about the planning process. That really, to me, is the first bullet point that I want to hit here. When you’re going to a conference to promote, really plan ahead. Have a game plan. Right?
Demian Farnworth: Mm-hmm.
The Impact of Having Unique, Identifiable, Memorable Swag
Jerod Morris: Where is your booth going to be, if you have a choice? You want it to be in a high-traffic area where people are going to see you. What team are you going to have there? We’re going to have a team of people that can help us in the Rainmaker room, giving demos, who can be there to go out and meet people. What kind of swag are you going to have? This is another important part. Right?
Demian Farnworth: Mm-hmm. People love free stuff, man.
Jerod Morris: They do, they do. But you don’t want to just hand out something generic. We have some cool swag, and actually, I don’t want to give away what we have here on the show simply because it’s before the event, but we have some cool stuff, some unique stuff that you wouldn’t think of.
It’s because Jessica had a game plan. She planned ahead, understood how she wanted — obviously we all worked together on this — the platform should be presented, what’s going to be the best way to get this in front of people and get this message delivered to the people at the conference. That planning ahead part is so essential to what you’re doing.
Demian Farnworth: I think planning ahead, too — and I don’t know if you can talk about this — but have a game plan for actually engaging with people, because I think that’s so critical, especially thinking from the introvert’s side of things. It’s the idea of, at least have a plan when you’re walking in there.
And when I say ‘plan,’ make it a challenge. Have a quota of people you’re going to reach out to so that you know what’s going to happen, what you’re going to do when you get there.
Back in the day, I hosted a couple of booths with another pal who did most of the talking, but they were just traumatic in the sense of having to do that. But I learned from that. “Okay, I need to make this a challenge. I need to have myself a quota that I need to meet with people that I’m going to reach out to and talk to,” because otherwise, you’re just aimless and resisting everything.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, absolutely. You also want to have a game plan for “What’s the connection going to look like?” If someone comes up to your booth or if you talk to somebody, do they need to buy right there? Or is there a way, if they give you a business card, can you add them to a list? What is there that carries the connection from the conference to afterward?
Because remember, people are going to be meeting all kinds of people. They’re learning all this knowledge. They’re getting all this swag. It is overwhelming for conference attendees a lot of the time, and anybody who’s been to a conference knows that. So how do you make it so that it’s simple to a) be remembered and b) reach out and continue the connection afterward?
Why Offering Special Incentives Can Induce the Urgency and/or Scarcity People Need to Act
Demian Farnworth: I think, too, it’s a good idea to have — even if it’s informal — a decision tree, because I find myself in conversations like, “I don’t have an exit plan for this. How do I get out of this conversation because it’s eating all my time. I need to move on.” You can move people through, like, “Hey, you want a free t-shirt?” “Yeah, sure.” “Well, come back to the booth and grab one.” And then say, “Are you interested in a demo?” “Nah, no, not right now. Maybe later.” “Oh great. Can I get your name and number and then follow up with you?” There’s your exit plan.
Or if you get somebody who’s talking, like, “Hey, why don’t we move this to the next level?” whatever that is. “I need to talk to more people.” Always have an exit plan in your head so you don’t find yourself engulfed in a conversation that lasts three hours when it should have only been like 45 minutes.
Jerod Morris: Absolutely. Also, having something in mind, being creative with ways to induce urgency and scarcity to act, that can help you manage those conversations, too, because you have a smooth transition where it’s like, “Hey, if you register today, you can get a special deal on XYZ,” whatever it is. You think about, maybe there’s something special for attendees.
We’re going to be something like this for The Showrunner launch, actually, where it’s something special just for attendees. Maybe there’s a special landing page that they can go to, only those people. It kind of makes them feel special, and again, it gives them a little bit of urgency to act or take action on whatever you’re talking about.
Why You Need to Know the Audience of the Conference and Adapt Your Pitch
Jerod Morris: Something else that’s very important is to really understand the audience of the conference and adapt your pitch. The Rainmaker Platform does a ton of stuff for a lot of different people, for a lot of different types of digital businesses. This is a conference about podcasting, so obviously, we want to highlight the podcasting features and the specific other features that will help you grow a podcast, because that’s the audience.
It’s important to really understand, who are the people who are going to be at this conference? What are the specific benefits of our product, of our service, that are really going to speak to these people? There are maybe 20, but what are the two, three, four that are really going to hit these people? And make sure you focus on those, because again, you’re in this environment where everybody’s overwhelmed and you’ve got to find a way to cut through that noise.
Demian Farnworth: I think that knowing that before you even go, so you have a strategy … because here’s an example. Back in the day, when I was in real estate marketing, we had booths at a few different conferences, and they were conferences for different real estate agencies like RE/MAX and Keller Williams.
Well, where we didn’t really do a good job of planning was for RE/MAX agents. They are the decision makers. They are sort of solo. They make the decisions. So we could sell straight to them, but what we didn’t realize was with all the other ones, like Keller Williams, none of them were the decision makers. It was the brokers. So we could have conversations with them, but we couldn’t close them, because they’d say, “I have to go talk to my broker. I have to get this approved by my broker.” It’s like, “Oh my gosh.”
What we should have done, and we adjusted halfway through, was saying, “Okay. Let’s get contact information.” We can then build around this to make it so we’re getting content, building exclusivity and scarcity, and then getting contact information. What can we offer them at this point?
Know who your audience is and who the decision makers — especially if you’re selling something, if that’s your premier goal at that conference – know, are you dealing with decision makers? If not, then who is that, and how do you make that connection with them? How do you elevate that connection? How do you cultivate that connection?
Jerod Morris: Absolutely. I think having an idea of what questions to ask people at the beginning of interactions is also very important. For example, with The Showrunner course, there’s different levels of people who are in the course. There’s beginners. There’s more experienced people. Obviously, the way that I’m going to talk about the course is going to depend on if that person is more experienced or if they’re a beginner. The course itself is good for everybody, but there’s specific parts of it that speak more to people.
So, “Hey, are you just starting a podcast? Have you had one for a while?” is a good question to get to know, understand some context. Same thing with the Rainmaker Platform. So, “Are you profiting directly from the podcast? Are you selling ads on it, or is this more of a content marketing plan? You have a course attached to it?”
Ask questions. Learn a little bit about the actual person that you’re talking to so that when it does come time a) to learn about them so that you’re actually having a real human interaction and b) so that when it does come time to talk about your product, you can make sure that the information you’re giving is actually beneficial because it fits the person that you’re talking to. You really only know that by asking questions, but if you just jump into some pre-planned pitch or whatever, that’s not really going to happen.
Demian Farnworth: Mm-hmm.
The Benefit of Getting as Many People Involved as Possible
Jerod Morris: The final thing I would say is to get as many people involved as possible as you can. Obviously, with travel costs and that kind of thing, it’s not always easy to bring people to conferences. It may only be one or two people. If it’s a local conference, if you have the opportunity to bring people, do so.
I think we’re really fortunate here for Podcast Movement that we have the opportunity to bring people. Jessica is great at planning and running events. Jonny Nastor and I will be able to go out, talk with people, and connect with Showrunner people already in the course.
Demian, you obviously have a complicated relationship with conferences, but you’re good at them, and you’re a podcaster. You’ll be able to connect with people there as well.
Demian Farnworth: Sure.
Jerod Morris: Caroline will be there, who will really be able to help us out with logistics and planning, and we’ll have some other people there who will be able to help out with the demos for Rainmaker. It’s a total team effort where people can really play to their strengths.
As much as you can do that, that’s going to help you, obviously, get the most out of the experience as possible for whatever product it is that you’re promoting.
The Importance of Being a Part of the Conference, Not Just a Sponsor
Jerod Morris: Let me say this, I guess as a last point. Be a part of the conference, not just a sponsor or not just someone there pitching a product.
Demian Farnworth: You mean a speaker? Is that what you’re saying? Being a speaker?
Jerod Morris: No. I mean, if you can speak, that’s great. We are. We do have speaking slots. Sometimes you go to a booth, or you’re at a conference, and it just feels like the person at the booth …
Demian Farnworth: Doesn’t want to be there?
Jerod Morris: This kind of goes back to knowing your audience. Well, doesn’t want to be there, doesn’t really get it, maybe doesn’t understand the tone of the conference. Is this conference a really formal conference? Is it a more laid-back conference?
Be part of it. Understand what’s going on. Understand the schedule. Understand the beat. Just keep your finger on the pulse of the conference. And there’s a lot of different ways to do that, but it’s being a part of it, not just a booth over here in the corner that’s just trying to sell your stuff.
Demian Farnworth: Is following the Twitter hashtag one way to be part of it, to keep the pulse on it?
Jerod Morris: I would say so.
Demian Farnworth: Yeah.
Jerod Morris: Follow the hashtag. Ask people how it’s going. Again, don’t just jump into your pitch. Ask people how it’s going. Maybe ask people what their favorite speaker of the day was before you even jump right into it.
Any answer that you get from someone you’re talking to in that environment is going to give you more information to deliver a more tailored pitch to the person. That’s one reason. More than that, people go to conferences for an experience. Don’t be this part outside of it where it’s like you’re pulling people out of the experience to say, “Here. Find out about my product,” because people are polite and a lot of times, they’ll listen to you, but they may not want to.
Make it part of the overall experience as much as you can, which just gets back to understanding the conference. Again, keeping your finger on the pulse. Just be a part of it.
Demian Farnworth: That’s right. Are we going to have one of those simulator booths there where people can experience what it’s like — you know, a day in the life of a Copyblogger employee?
Jerod Morris: That would be awesome. With virtual reality goggles.
Demian Farnworth: Yeah, exactly. Right.
Jerod Morris: I don’t know if we’ll have that for this one, but we should.
Demian Farnworth: I took my son to a LEGOLAND conference here in St. Louis at the Edward Jones Dome where the Rams play football, or at least pretend to play football. I love the Rams. I shouldn’t have said that.
Jerod Morris: We’ll edit it out.
Demian Farnworth: I think it was the Boy Scouts. They had a booth there that was a zip line simulator, and it was silly. I said that after we came out, and he was like, “No, that was awesome.” I was like, “Oh God, sorry. That was great.”
Jerod Morris: Wait, how did that work? A zip line simulator?
Demian Farnworth: There’s this little cloth booth, and there were about four chairs inside, and a projector just shot on all three sides of you. They shot a picture of someone — they had one of those head cams on — who went down the zip line. You’re like in the zip line going down while the environment around you moves down through these three sides. There was no simulating reality at all.
Jerod Morris: Your feet are just planted on the floor?
Demian Farnworth: Your feet are planted on the floor, and you’re just going by. It was a nice, noble effort, and the line was always long.
Jerod Morris: Well, it worked. Were people in there going, “Wheee!”?
Demian Farnworth: Like I said, my son thought it was great. I was looking around me like, “You guys aren’t embarrassed about this?” My son loved it. He didn’t want to go back because there was a long line.
Jerod Morris: All right. Maybe try having a zip line simulator at your booth to get people over there.
Demian Farnworth: Yeah. All right.
Jerod Morris: Maybe. All right, man. I’m going to see you Friday. I’m excited about that.
Demian Farnworth: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it, buddy. It’s going to be great.
Jerod Morris: We thank you all very much for listening to this episode of The Lede. The Lede is always, of course, sponsored by the Rainmaker Platform. Go to RainmakerPlatform.com, and you can start your free 14-day trial anytime.
We will be back next Tuesday with part two in this series on attending a conference. We’re going to talk about how to get the most out of attending a conference when you’re there to learn. We’ll talk about that next Tuesday on another brand-new episode of The Lede.