An HR Tech entrepreneur, Justin Dennis is Co-Founder of Optunl and Jobjet. He has worked to make recruiting and employer branding easier for companies like Cisco, Red Bull, YP, Nimble and AMN Healthcare. A dedicated thought leader, Justin blogs regularly about recruiting, marketing and business development. Coverage of his work and company have been featured in a number of publications, including SourceCon, Recruiter.com, Fast Company and TechCrunch, to name a few. He has also launched two of Recruiting Daily’s “Top 100 Products to Watch” in the past two years. Follow him on Twitter.
With Apple’s WWDC17 still fresh on our minds, we’ve been thinking about the benefits that industry conferences have on promoting brands and new products. This conference creates so much exposure, not only for the tech giant hosting the event but for the developers in attendance as well. It serves as a hub for like-minded people to meet, trade ideas, learn new skills, and gain awareness of incredible new industry trends.
Of course, you’d love the opportunity to be Steve Jobs in front of your ideal customers and speak to them directly. Unfortunately, it’s never easy to convince a group of people to come and hear about your brand or product; and getting one-on-one time with prospects at tradeshows is nearly impossible among the hustle, events, and competitors.
But, putting together a conference centered around an industry topic, rather than a specific brand or product, will pique potential customers’ interest by providing them with relevant industry insights. This isn’t an easy feat to accomplish, but with support and a successful conference strategy, it can be done.
Original conferences position you as a thought leader, build industry awareness and generate a peer to peer discussion. They are also an excellent component of a B2B lead generation strategy, but if you have never launched your own conference, you might quickly feel overwhelmed.
Here’s a roadmap we have used in the past for hosting a profitable conference to increase revenue and get in front of your ideal customers:
1. Identify A Conference Theme
Identifying a theme for your conference is one of the most challenging, yet vital, aspects of hosting an industry event. The theme must be relevant to your niche and interesting enough to attract would-be customers, but it must also be newsworthy and provide valuable learning opportunities for attendees.
Consider Apple’s WWDC event, many look forward to seeing Apple’s new products, but the event appeals so strongly to developers because of the heavy focus on understanding industry trends and learning new skills. The promise of meeting peers and major industry players while getting hands-on guidance from product experts boosts attendance and draws attention.
To begin developing ideas, investigate topics that are popular on industry blogs and have been gaining interest in your target niche. Brainstorm these ideas and consider publications that would want to run content on this subject, knowledgeable speakers that could be contacted, and potential sponsors for this type of event. Get input from other industry pros to assess the interest in a few topics and the crowd that it would draw.
Consider assets and benefits that would help attendees to grow in their field and how these can be promoted effectively. If you’re really stuck, look at other industry conferences and assess similarities in the type of conferences and themes that they are addressing for insights and additional inspiration.
2. Outreach & Strategy
Before announcing your event, you’ll have several logistics and outreach steps to go through first. Ironing out these details can be tedious, but they are necessary to the success of your event:
Step 1: Seek sponsors
As tempting as it is to want all of the credit for putting on a great event, these conferences tend to become very daunting very quickly. To ease the workload, seek out sponsors to shoulder some of the costs and time commitment so that you are able to put on a memorable event. Think of those within your sphere who offer complementary services and would also be interested in addressing this group in a fewer sales driven environment.
Step 2: Find speakers
Understanding who your sponsors are and the budget that they bring to the table will help you to understand the scale of your event as well as the number of tracks and speakers you’ll likely need. Additional sponsors and speakers are also beneficial in the outreach and advertising process, helping with word of mouth advertising and promoting the event on social media and through blogging.
Step 3: Choose a venue
Entering this process with a clear budget and an understanding of the speaker lineup will make choosing a venue easier– giving you insight into the number of breakout rooms that you’ll need, if you need infrastructure for a panel discussion, roundtables, or a more traditional Q&A style event.
3. Create Content Around This Theme To Promote The Conference
After settling on a theme and working out the kinks, you’ll need to create an abundance of content to promote the conference. This content will be centered around the theme that you’ve chosen and will need to be suited for various media sites and platforms. You can experiment with different types and styles of content, create guest content to send to relevant blogs, and ask speakers and sponsors to share and promote this content as well.
4. Launch Day
Events are always stressful, but planning and working with experienced partners can ease the process. Having additional hands to manage schedules, sign-ins, and any day-of tasks that need to be worked out to help your confidence to run seamlessly.
5. Creating A Digital Archive
WWDC is designed so that even those who were not able to attend the event in person can still learn from the information shared at the conference. Many of the event’s sessions are recorded so that they are available to the company’s 16 million registered developers to view and learn from later.
The lasting benefits of archived content like this can be applied to your event and industry as well. To make the most of the information shared at your event, record speaker sessions or create worksheets or graphics to promote online.
Sharing this information on your site will ensure that the conference continues to drive traffic to your site and position your company as a valuable industry resource. So much valuable content is shared at these events, so it’s a great idea to repurpose it for use later and to continue to attract customers to your site.
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