I’ll be on a plane tomorrow heading to Charlotte, NC for my third Financial Blogger Conference (FinCon for short).
If you’ve been following me online for a while then you know I ADORE this conference for many reasons. I always learn something valuable, I always make a return on my investment and it’s a ton of fun.
I also recently put down a downpayment for another conference in Bali next year. Yes – that Bali!
I’ve gotten several questions from readers and followers lately regarding how to really rock a conference. Most people know that conferences can be a great way to grow your small business, but very few actually succeed in doing so.
People also have other questions like, how do you make it affordable? How do you work a room? How do you even pick which conferences to go to?
Today I will be sharing some of my best conference tips so you can make money and grow your small business.
Best Conference Tip #1: Pick conferences potential clients are attending.
In my experience, there are two kinds of conferences. The first is a conference where you hang out with a bunch of colleagues and learn some stuff. This typically isn’t great for client prospecting although it is awesome for educational purposes. For instance, some of my former coaching clients work in network marketing for a company called Arbonne and they have a giant conference in Las Vegas every year.
The second is a conference where your potential clients go. This means attendees are looking for the service you provide through your business. It also means it’s a potential goldmine for you to grow your small business.
Lucky for me FinCon is a mix of both. I simultaneously hang out with colleagues while networking with editors looking for financial content writers and potential coaching clients.
While you’ll want to have a healthy mix of both kinds of events, if your intention is to make money you may want to consider sticking to events your potential clients actually attend.
Best Conference Tip #2: Have a plan.
Okay, so the first conference I ever went to was a bust business wise. Truth be told I’d just quit my job a few days before and the last thing on my mind was how I could leverage attending a conference to grow my business. I really just wanted to celebrate with people who’d been with me on my journey for years. And boy did we celebrate!
Now I actually know better. While conferences are a ton of fun, the reality is they are also a ton of work. Last year I was setting up meetings while running around New Orleans with a drink (or two) in my hand.
Just because I’m having a good time doesn’t mean I can’t use it to grow my business. This is actually part of the beauty of running a business. The lines between work and play get very blurred.
I’m not even in Charlotte yet and I’ve already got four interviews, a speaking engagement, a dinner event and meetings set up. I’ve also checked the schedule and marked the sessions and networking events that are best for my business. I’m going to be busy.
Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself when planning your conference:
- Which events/sessions are going to be most beneficial for the growth of my business?
- Is there any way that I can leverage my expertise and get involved (ex. speak)?
- What do I want to see happen in my business as a result of attending this conference?
- If I meet potential clients how can I move them through my sales funnel (ex. free consultation)?
- Are there any industry experts attending who I would like to meet?
- What do I have to do after the conference? (Ex. What is your follow-up system?)
Best Conference Tip #3: Find ways to make it more affordable.
Once again, I didn’t pay for a plane ticket for this conference. (You can find my guide to travel hacking here). I’m also splitting a room with my friend and since I’m speaking I got my ticket was comped.
Traveling for business doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. There are plenty of ways to make it affordable including splitting room costs, getting involved with the event and in some cases you can get companies to sponsor you and pay for the entire thing. My friend Shannyn Allan at Frugal Beautiful has done this and I’m just starting to get into this in my own business.
And even if it does cost you some money it’s worth it if you work it right. It’s tax deductible anyway and if you play your cards right you’ll make your money back and then some. I always do.
Best Conference Tip #4: Strategically pick your action steps during and after the conference.
If you’re a newbie conference goer you may be tempted to want to do everything. You’ll want to do everything while at the event and then you’ll want to implement everything you learned about when you get back home.
Stop. This is a sure fire way to get overwhelmed and burn out. Believe me, it’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way – multiple times.
Instead, try picking your action steps based on the next best move for your business. While at the event, pick the conference events that will be the most beneficial for your business. For example, I’ve realized I make more money at networking events than attending actual sessions I can probably get on video later.
As for after the event, pick the one best thing you learned that your business needs right now. Back at my first FinCon in 2013 it was self-publishing a book. This year it may be doing a content audit and updating my blog posts.
The point is to be strategic about what it is you do instead of running around like a headless chicken. Additionally, it’s better to do a few things very well than it is to half ass lots of things.
Best Conference Tip #5: Get involved.
I’m convinced that the reason events like The Financial Blogger Conference and the Femfessionals Business Fo Your Soul Retreat work out so well for me is because I’m actually involved with the organizations who put them on. In fact, out of all the best conference tips, I have to say I’ve left the best for last.
I don’t just show up to FinCon – I speak, I mentor people while I’m there and I hang out in the Facebook group all year long. One time I even went as far as emailing first-time attendees and letting them know I was available if I had any questions.
Likewise, I don’t just show up to Femfessionals events expecting to get something in return. This is by far one of the biggest mistakes I see in networking – people show up, hand out a business card and then do nothing.
When it comes to Femfessionals, I volunteer as one of their global teachers, I gave the founder some advice on getting press coverage and I try to help new members when I can. I’m not getting paid for any of this – but believe me, the money comes back to me.
Bonus Tip: Set Up Systems With Your Team
The reason I don’t lose my damn mind when I attend big events is because my virtual assistant and I have systems in place.
For example, if I meet someone who makes a great potential client I simply snap a picture of their business card and upload it onto our project management system with a couple of notes. From there, my assistant knows she needs to email this person on my behalf.
Another example is all the emails that come rolling in prior to big events. With FinCon, for example, my inbox starts overflowing even before the event. At this point, my assistant knows what to do with those emails.
We may also use Infusionsoft for automated follow-ups depending on the needs of a person I meet. Or, I may ask someone if they want to subscribe to my blog in which case my assistant knows to add them to the list.
Conferences can be a fantastic way to make more money and grow your small business – you just have to work it right! Use these best conference tips and I promise you’ll start seeing more of a return on your investment.