No matter your industry or focus, there are likely conferences, seminars and industry gatherings every single week you could justify attending. Some you may be required to attend, but others you must sort through and prioritize. Which are worth the time out of the office? Which will give you enough of an ROI to prioritize the time, expense and opportunity cost of not doing something else?
Next week, I’m taking three days to attend the DemandCon conference in San Francisco. I don’t need to be there, but I’ve made it a priority. Why? Here are the six factors I typically use when considering a conference or other out-of-town event (using my rationale for DemandCon in most cases).
1. Topic and/or approach
What’s the event about, what will it cover in general, and how/why is that unique? What does this approach offer that you can’t get elsewhere, or couldn’t get as well by just reading similar information from home? DemandCon, for example, covers the entire sales & marketing funnel, attracting both sales & marketing leaders by breaking down the sales funnel into top, middle and bottom. That’s a unique approach, and I know from experience at last year’s event that it works well.
2. Full, high-quality agenda
Some conferences fail to deliver on the promise of the premise. About half the time, you won’t know that until you get there and see how good (or bad) the content really is. But the agenda for the conference, the topics covered and depth promised, can give you a good clue. If you see consistent sets of content offered that you can immediately translate value to your role, job or company, that’s a really good sign. Check out what DemandCon has in store during two packed days. Good stuff, especially if you work the funnel.
3. Great speakers
Who do you want to learn from? What individuals and what companies? Look for speakers who have a reputation for giving great presentations, or who already provide a ton of great insight via a blog or newsletter. Look for an agenda that isn’t filled entirely with the sponsor’s executives, but balances those spots with the people you really want to meet and learn from.
4. High-quality attendees
Many conferences will publish a list of companies represented at an upcoming conference. Others may post the actual names and titles of those registered. Some conferences get a reputation for not only the quality of attendees, but also how open they are to sharing, networking, and learning from each other. My experience at DemandCon last year was significant in this regard. Great attendees, most in operational roles who are actively managing sales & marketing pipelines for their companies or their clients. Look for those who are “in the trenches” who can offer real-time advice, perspective and feedback on what’s working and what’s not.
Let’s face it, where a conference is being held makes a huge difference. How far you have to travel, how convenient it is to get there, how expensive the airfare and hotel are. That’s a starting point. But also take into account a little downtime or at least away-from-the-conference networking opportunities with people you meet. Good restaurants, night life, entertainment, outdoors activities, etc. DemandCon is in San Francisco, so for me that’s a short/easy flight and a city that never gets old.
6. Business development opportunities
I put this at the end of the list not because it’s not important. Every event you attend should offer short-term and long-term business development and sales opportunities, either via attending prospects or channel partners. Good events aren’t always the best immediate sales channels or pipeline builders, so know enough about the conference and how it works to more accurately set your expectations.
What about you? Why do you choose events or conferences to attend? Would you add to this list, subtract from it, or order it differently?