How to Choose Which Conferences to Attend

kathryn by Kathryn Hawkins on February 15, 2012
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More than 1,500 trade shows and conferences take place each year in the United States. These events bring together industry leaders and vendors to network, discuss trends, and display new products. Attending a conference or trade show can be an effective way to promote your company and connect with mentors and prospects — particularly if you speak on a panel or host an exhibit booth. However, admission fees and travel expenses can easily run into the thousands of dollars. So, how do you decide which ones are worth attending?

Here are three tips for choosing which events to attend:

  1. Examine the guest list. Will the event attract other professionals with whom you’d like to connect? A list of featured speakers will likely be available when tickets go on sale. Finding out who the other general attendees are may prove more valuable (and difficult). Check the conference website for a list of the companies that attended last year, which can serve as a good benchmark. Try searching for relevant hashtags on Twitter and posts on the conference’s Facebook page, too. If many of the attendees could prove valuable to driving your business’s growth, then the conference may be worth attending: Consider which guests could serve as potential prospects, vendors, or partners.
  2. Calculate your costs. Before making a commitment to attend any event, estimate how much it’s going to cost you. Research all potential expenses — conference fees, hotels, airfare, ground transportation, meals, and time away from the office. Weigh which events are most likely to provide a good return on your investment. Although a large conference across the country may be alluring, a smaller event closer to home may prove a savvier choice, especially if you don’t see yourself generating enough new business at the bigger event to compensate for the extra expense.
  3. Check in with past attendees. Do due diligence. Search for blog reviews of last year’s conference: Were the attendees impressed by the speeches? Did they make the contacts they were hoping to make? Will they return this year? Send out a few email introductions to learn more about the conference and to make contacts prior to the event. Plan to leverage these acquaintances at the conference to take advantage of everything the event has to offer.
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