bootIt was a pleasure to co-host and attend a happy hour with MarketingProfs and Oracle Eloqua last Thursday evening in Washington DC. We had over 200 modern marketers registered and a huge crowd in attendance.

As with most events, you never really know what you’ll find in the room until you get there, and you’ll severely under-utilize the event if all you do is show up and hope for the best.

This wasn’t a huge event such that we were going to do a bunch of pre-event content and campaigns, but it was similar enough to countless great networking and pipeline-building events that I wanted to make the most of the trip.

Below is a quick summary of what I did before and during the event, as well as what we’ve already started to do for post-event follow-up. I’m posting this in hopes that there are steps or tactics you might be able to leverage the next time you do, sponsor or even just attend something similar.

Before The Event

  • Event registration was hosted on EventBrite, which was great since it gave me a list of everyone else who had registered (at least their first/last name and company). Three days before the event, I cut-and-pasted a copy of the list into Excel, separated the data so I had separate cells for first name, last name and company, and bingo – attendee list!
  • I then had our intern append the list from Salesloft with contact information. We were able to find phone numbers and email addresses for the majority of attendees.
  • I then did a personalized, mail-merged email to every attendee, literally just a quick email saying I noticed they were on the invite list and looked forward to seeing them there. My name was on the invitation as a co-host, so it wasn’t quite a “cold” email. But it was close. A few email addresses were wrong, but the delivery rate from Salesloft was still fairly impressive.
  • A trickle of “look forward to seeing you as well” emails came back over the next 24-48 hours, and as they did I made sure to directly connect with them via LinkedIn immediately. That would mean 2-3 impressions before I even saw them at the event.
  • The day of the event, I updated my attendee list and sorted it by those I wanted to particularly make sure I met (top prospects, representatives from partners I hadn’t met face-to-face, etc.). I then made sure to visit their LinkedIn pages to study their pictures, so I would more likely recognize them at the event.

At The Event

  • With the prep work done, a networking and/or happy hour-style event is all about being in the moment. Yes, you want to look for the people you had prioritized. But not at the expense of those you’re talking to in that moment.
  • Collect as many business cards as you can, have a separate place in your purse or sport coat to put them, and write little notes on them if you can to remind yourself of pieces of the conversation.
  • For those without a business card (or where you weren’t able to ask for one in natural conversation) write down their names and companies, or take a quick picture with your phone of their name tag (tell them you want to make sure you remember their name for follow up)

After The Event

  • This piece of the event plan is obviously still in process (as of this writing, the event was only one business day ago), but here’s what I’ve done or will do
  • On the flight back to Seattle Friday morning, I wrote a short “great to meet you” email to those I specifically spoke to, proactively sending them links to articles or best practice guides based on the conversation we may have had
  • I also then sent them a LinkedIn invite and followed them on Twitter
  • I did this in two phases – first for those I had business cards from, and second from those I wrote down and/or remembered. This I did from my hand-written notes at the event, plus another scan of the registration list to remind myself of those I had spoken with
  • A few people I looked forward to seeing weren’t able to make it.  They got a special “missed seeing you” email follow-up as well (with LinkedIn & Twitter treatment)
  • A handful of top prospects and partners will get a hand-written thank you note and/or a paperback copy of our Modern Marketer’s Field Guide in the mail this week
  • About 7-10 days from now, we’ll follow up again with those we aren’t already actively engaged with that are also on our priority follow-up list

There’s more we could do, of course. But I find that very, very few people do even this much. It really takes very little time, costs next to nothing, and can increase by multiples your ROI from smaller events like this.