Get the Most Out of Attending Conferences

No matter what you hope to achieve by attending conferences, these eight steps will help you get there.

Part of maintaining a successful business is attending conferences. They give you opportunities to build connections, learn from experts in your field and promote your brand. How much you benefit from these opportunities depends on your approach. If you prepare well, spend your time wisely and apply what you learn, you will take your company to new heights. To ensure you get the most out of your conference experiences, follow these eight steps.

Three people talking while attending conferences.

1. Know Why You Are Attending

Having a goal is fundamental to maximizing your conference experience. If you know what you want to achieve, then you will know how to prioritize your time. So, unless your boss gives you a specific reason for going to a conference, come up with one. It could be to find new clients, learn about the latest technology or form a business partnership. If you have trouble coming up with a goal, think about where your company is right now and ask yourself what would make it better. Once you have the answer to that, then setting a goal for the conference will be much easier.

2. Find Out Who You Want to Meet

Now that you have a goal, create a list of people you need to talk to at the conference. By making this list ahead of time, you increase your chances of achieving your objective. Start by researching more about the speakers and presenters. Once you figure out which ones will best help you reach your goal, make plans to talk to them sometime during the conference.

Don’t just stop with the speakers. Use social media hashtags and other technology to find out who else will be at the event.

Most conferences these days have an app that allows you to connect with fellow attendees. Download the app before the conference and take a look at who else is attending. If you find someone interesting in the app, take the time to do a bit of research on them so that when you do happen to meet up in person at the event you can breeze through the icebreaker and get right down to a meaningful discussion.

3. Plan Your Conference Agenda

Business woman writing in a notebook before attending conferences.

Use the conference itinerary to plan which sessions you will attend. Any time you spend figuring out which session to go to and how to get there is time you could have spent working toward your goal. So, plan ahead of time and map out how you will get from one session to the next. Also, find out where the closest restrooms will be so you are not wandering the halls or showing up late to a session. Becoming familiar with the venue also allows you to help your fellow attendees, which is a great way to form new relationships that could benefit your business.

4. Prepare to Collect and Distribute Contact Information

Before you show up to the conference, make sure you have a way to collect people’s contact information. If you are lucky, you will have tons of business cards by the end of the event. Make sure you keep all that contact information safe so you can use it later. Bring a folder to store business cards in or put the information onto a spreadsheet. As long as you have a system in place, you will be able to follow up with the people you met at the conference.

Make it easy for people to follow up with you by having tons of business cards on hand. The cards need to be easy to read so that people have no trouble contacting you. Also, make sure to include your social media handles as well as your phone number and email address. For some people, connecting through social media is more comfortable than a direct email or phone call. So, give people different ways to contact you so that they are more likely to follow up after the conference.

5. Wear Your Name Tag

Two custom engraved name tags to wear while attending conferences.

Even though most conferences give you a name badge to wear during the event, bring the name tag you use for work. Wearing a name tag that matches your brand helps people associate you with your products or services. And, it increases brand recognition. If your company does not use name tags, talk to your boss about having one custom made. Wear it so other people can easily read it. As you wear a name tag that has your business name, logo and job title, you will see it spark people’s interest in your company, which could lead to future growth.

6. Pay Attention During Presentations and Workshops

After several hours of listening to people speak, your mind can start to feel groggy. So, do things to help you remain alert. Stay hydrated and have snacks for whenever you start to feel your energy drop. Sit close to the front so you can easily see and hear the speaker. For note-taking, don’t just write down what the speaker says. Think about how it could help your business improve and jot down your ideas. These are just some strategies to help you stay focused on the presentations. As long as you make an effort to pay attention, you will get a lot more out of the conference than if you didn’t.

7. Follow Up After the Conference

Don’t let the connections you made go to waste. Follow up with your contacts, but gently. You don’t want to come off as overbearing or desperate for a business connection.

Whether you swapped emails, social media or business cards, use what you have to start up a professional yet friendly conversation. Make it your goal to form a connection that will last. Listen to what they have to say, and don’t be aggressive in how you approach them.

8. Take What You Learned and Make Plans

You have gathered a wealth of information. Now it is time to put it to good use. First, go over your notes, especially the ideas that came to your mind during the conference. Out of everything you wrote down, what will help your business move onto the next stage of development? You may want to apply everything you learned at the conference, but what you do first will depend on where your company is at now. So, discuss what you learned with your team members and your boss before you move forward. Once you decide the best way to proceed, begin making plans. As you apply what you learned from the conference, and follow up with the people you learned from, you will receive a higher return on your investment.

Now that you know the steps to getting the most out of a conference, apply them to every event you attend. As you come to these events prepared to learn, make connections and promote your brand, you will see your business bloom.

The Art of Corporate Gifting

Corporate gifting is a fun and captivating way to show appreciation for colleagues and clients. Gift giving is also a powerful investment tool for your business. Take a moment and think about how important it is to recognize those who keep your business running.

You are creating a personal connection to people you work with by giving gifts. These individuals will feel more valued and appreciated as they receive a thoughtful gift. And, there is no better way to strengthen a business relationship.

As such, corporate gifting has been on the rise for the past few years. This rise happens as more business owners discover the benefits of thanking their customers, employees and other business partners with a simple gift. No matter the present, how you give to those keeping you in business says a lot about you as a professional.

corporate gifting to employees

What is corporate gifting?

Corporate gift giving is an effective way to sustain your customer and employee retention. Giving these gifts will help you build critical relationships with customers and colleagues. And, most importantly, it will allow you to express your gratitude to the company’s employees. It is a simple concept to show appreciation to your professional network and will increase your business opportunities.

According to numerous surveys, most business gifts are given to major clients. After that comes employees, then prospective clients. Reasons for gift giving range from thanking long-standing customers for their business to recognizing a valued employee for working on a weekend. The basic reason is the same: to affirm relationships and enhance the personal connection between the giver and recipient.

Gifts differ from incentives in that they’re offered with no explicit preconditions for performance. They differ from ad specialties in that they don’t contain any blatant imprints or advertising. They differ from recognition in that they’re not part of prescribed programs.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a bottom-line benefit to be derived from corporate gift giving. Just about everyone agrees that when done correctly, gifting is a cost-effective way to build a sense of partnership with valued associates. And, they know that the primary reason for gifting is to acknowledge relationships and improve personal connections.

Why should you participate in corporate gifting?

For some companies, corporate gifting is an essential part of their marketing strategy. It is, by far, one of the most productive ways to grow and sustain your business. And, for many companies, giving is a fundamental detail within their business model.

Most business owners would agree that, when done correctly, corporate gifting provides an opportunity to connect with their clients and strengthen employee ties. And, while there are many reasons for corporate gifting, the underlying goal is to sustain relationships and deepen personal connections between the business owner and their colleagues. Retention, recruiting and business development are three other great reasons to give a gift.

Show how much you value the relationships you have built through your business by handing out corporate gifts. By doing this, your bottom-line becomes a social, rather than a financial benefit. But don’t just give a gift because you think your clients and employees expect it. Give because you want to sustain these relationships.

Because of your corporate gifting, your business transactions increase and so does your customer retention. By giving corporate gifts to your business associates, you continue to develop a positive image in your customer’s mind. So, customers who receive thoughtful corporate gifts from your business tend to buy more products and request services from you.

However, many corporations don’t understand that gifts and incentives contribute to maintaining a business commitment. Corporate gifting helps maintain the relationships you have already worked so hard to establish. It also helps the recipient remember your company because you gave them such an enjoyable and memorable gift.

We are social creatures who express our feelings by giving gifts.

It can be any occasion, be it a birthday, anniversary or to even show love and gratitude, giving gifts is an activity we all do. Let us go back in time to find the origins of gift giving. Giving gifts is one of the oldest human activities; it may have started just after the origin of our species. Even primitive beings gave gifts to one another; often tribe leaders awarded tribe members for any achievement that is gain for the entire tribe.

Earlier gifts used to be a little unusual, but these were the only precious things available at that time. Unusually shaped rocks, a tooth are some examples. These things came naturally from nature and were given without any modification. As we developed tools, holes were drilled into these rocks or a tooth to use them as necklaces or bracelets. Then idols gifted were made from carving wood or stone for as idol worship started among people. Later, people used to offer each other good luck tokens; these token were given as presents. Even today, corporate gifting is part of our everyday culture; it is a means to express our feelings for one another.

So then, to whom should you be sending these gifts?

corporate gifting should include everyone who is important to your business

Your gift recipient list should always include significant clients, business partners, valued suppliers and especially your employees. After all, your employees are your most valuable asset, so you want to show how much you appreciate them. Other notable people to consider sending corporate gifts can include prospective clients or new customers.

Gift these gifts as employee recognition. Some companies give managers a discretionary budget that may be spent on gifts to recognize employees for exceptional behavior. Actions worthy of special recognition include going “above and beyond” to please a customer, putting in long hours to complete a project on time, making a cost-saving or productivity-enhancing suggestion or completing a big sale. Some executives would argue that such actions are expected as part of an employee’s job and should be rewarded at performance-review time. Yet, the evidence suggests that carefully timed and appropriate gifts not only make people feel appreciated for their performance, they also increase the chances people will feel good about going the extra mile in the future.

When giving gifts for a special performance, make sure the gift is appropriate to the employee receiving it, and the presentation is made in a personal and, if possible, public forum. The recipient and his or her colleagues must know why the gift is being presented. Publicity in the company newsletter, or even an announcement in the lunchroom, ensures that people know the types of behaviors the organization wants to promote. Employees typically receive gifts as awards for years of service.

Now, sometimes the hardest question: what do you give as your corporate gift?

Don’t make showing appreciation with corporate gifts for your customers, clients and employees complicated. Company branding is important to remember while you are giving your corporate gifts. And when gift giving, branding is crucial for all corporations. These gifts help to promote a company’s brand and provide continued employee loyalty. And, in the past few years, personalized gifts are replacing other gift types.

No wonder that the customized corporate gift acts as a brand tool and creates brand awareness among the receiver. Gifts given away as a promotional item with the company’s logo and tagline helps create brand recognition. The best way to create awareness is by giving small promotional gifts as it not only attracts more people but helps to retain your brand in the market.

Remember to choose gifts that will assist in cementing business relationships and boost your sales and service requests. The best gift option is something that will be meaningful for your recipients. So, make sure to do your research before selecting what you are giving away. What works for one client may not work for your employees. Frequently, businesses must decide on several gift types to accommodate all of their recipients.

Businesses have a lot of different choices for what to send people as corporate gifts. As a rule of thumb, think about how professional you need the gift to be. And, consider if you would want to receive the gift as well. Remember not to overstep your bounds if you are trying to personalize these gifts. Keep in mind that this is your opportunity to connect with an individual using marketing strategies.

personalized ribbon tied around a chocolate treat for corporate gifting

P.S. Don’t forget to personalize your corporate gifts!

Attach a personalized handwritten note to every gift for an added touch so your colleagues and clients will remember you for years to come. Oh, and hand deliver each one so you can continue to strengthen every business relationship you have.