Choosing and Maximizing Events

In a recent webinar presented by Mike Belsito, co-founder of Industry: The Product Conference, Mike delved into the topic of product people attending events. While it might seem counterintuitive, conferences, seminars and even networking events can offer a huge opportunity for those who work in product marketing and management. But how do you choose the right events to attend? And how do you share the value of attending such activities with your boss, especially if they have to approve time off and allot budget for your extracurricular activities? Choosing Events As Belsito pointed out, when funds and time are limited, you want to be smart about where you choose to spend both. That means you need to look for events that will benefit you, your team and your company. How do you go about doing that, then? Before you choose which event (or events) to attend, ask yourself three questions:
  1. Will your customers actually be there?
  2. Will your competitors be there?
  3. Will other product people be there?
Why are these questions important? It’s simple: If you want to demonstrate that you got a tangible return from the time and money invested in attending a conference or seminar, you’ll need to meet people who can be beneficial for your business. Customers No, you’re probably not going to sell anything during an event, but you want to meet with the types of people who buy what you sell. Not only could you generate leads, but even more important, you could get feedback about what customers want and how they like your products. Competitors You can take two stances on the competition: Keep them at a distance or embrace the opportunity to learn. At an event, you should probably lean toward the latter. Visit competitors’ booths at the trade show and speak to people who work in the same space as you to learn what they’re doing and how they’re different. The information you gain could be invaluable. Product People There are so many reasons to meet peers in the networking world, not the least of which is having someone else who “gets it.” Knowing a colleague at another company can help you to compare notes and learn more about the industry. And it’s always good to have a broad network if you choose to take a different direction in your career. Maximizing Events Now that you’ve chosen some great conferences or seminars to attend, you want to make sure you get the most bang for your buck. You can do that with two actions: preparation and follow-up. Preparation Sometimes, conferences will release the names of attendees before the event so you can know who’s going to be there. If that’s the case, start scoping them out on LinkedIn. Get to know more about them, and if you find a connection who could prove to be valuable, schedule a one-on-one to have coffee or a drink during the event. Also, look into which vendors and speakers will be participating. You can do your research on the companies and then use LinkedIn to find key people who work there and might be attending. Not only will you have a game plan for meeting lots of people, but also for meeting the quality of attendee who will be beneficial. Follow-up This is a major area where most conference attendees fail. They learn a ton of great information and make many wonderful connections—and then they head back to the real world, all of that forgotten. Task yourself with writing a report on your event to share with your team or manager. That way the information stays fresh, and as a bonus, you’ll have action items to keep the learning moving. Commit to reaching out to those people you met. At a minimum, send them a note through LinkedIn, but if you want to go the extra mile, mail handwritten cards. That special touch will mean a lot to your new connections. Give Yourself Permission When it comes to your next event, give yourself the permission and flexibility to get outside of your comfort zone. Meet new people. Ask questions of the competition and customers. Make the event your own. You can learn more by listening to the entire webinar.  And if you’d like to check out Mike’s Industry 2016 conference, enter the code PMwebinar to receive a $100 discount.

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