As I start to plan my travel for 2019 (something I should have done in December), I’m thinking a lot about where I want to spend my time and money, and what will be the best for my bottom line. In general I try to tie real, tangible dollars to the conference I go to (in most cases). Because I’m using my own money, while education is a good metric for attending a conference, my goal is to recoup at least some of the cost. Here’s how I do that.
First, let me say that this model might not be for everyone, but if you’re paying your own way, I think it’s important to determine what makes spending the money a win for you. With conferences like An Event Apart or Podcast Movement, what you learn can definitely be the ROI, because you take what you learn and apply it to your business, making you more profitable. For me, I measure success 3 different ways:
- What I learn
- Who I meet
- Direct deals that happen as a result of me going to the conference
Let’s break these down.
What I Learn
If I’m going to sessions, I make sure I get some tangible, actionable advice from them. I take notes, ask questions, and when I can, I talk to the presenter. This requires a little pre-conference research and thinking.
First I need to ask, “What do I want to learn?” I make a list of a few topics related to the conference and prioritize them. I then see if there are sessions around those topics. This is especially important at multi-track conferences because you’ll need to decide what to go to and what to skip.
Actually go to Sessions
Then I actually go to sessions. I don’t skip them to work on something or tend to a false emergency. I see too many people spending large chunks of conferences on their laptops. What’s the point of spending money to do something you can do for free at home?When you go to a conference, don't spend it working on your laptop. You can do that at home. Click To Tweet
Who I Meet
I love networking. I’m an extrovert, and I love meeting people. I love connecting people. The connections I make at conferences are invaluable to me.
This is most applicable for me at WordCamps. I don’t really go to sessions at WordCamps because they’re available on WordPress.TV, so I spend my time meeting people and learning about what others are doing in the space.
When I can, I will check out the attendee list, the speaker list, and the sponsor list, and I’ll write down who I want to meet at the conference. When it makes sense, I’ll reach out to them beforehand and see if we can grab some time.Make a list of the people you want to meet and reach out before you go to a conference. Click To Tweet
Have Business Cards and Your Pitch Ready
I also always have business cards on me, and a well-rehearsed statement about what I do (sometimes called an Elevator Pitch).
When I collect others’ business cards, I scan them into Evernote, and when I do that, I set up a Zapier automation to remind me to follow up in 3 days.
Tying Connections to ROI
So how does this relate to ROI? When I meet someone at a conference, I make a note of it. I scan their card, write down their info, and note where I met them. If a business relationship comes out of that connection (sponsorship, videos, etc) I consider that a return in the investment I made at that conference.If a business relationship comes out of a conference connection, I consider that ROI. Click To Tweet
This may sound a little cold and calculating, like I’m just using the people I meet at these conferences for money – but that’s not true at all. I consider a lot of the people I meet at these events friends, and we happen to be able to help each other. That said, these are business conferences, not parties, and I suspect many people have the similar goals.
On top of meeting people, I try to work out deals at the conference. Again, this could be sponsorships or services work. But part of me reaching out before the conference is to set up meetings to work things out in person.
If a deal gets inked at the conference or as a result of a meeting from the conference, that’s a very easy way to tie income to the event.
Choosing the Right Conference
The lynchpin of this is choosing the right conferences to go to. This year, I’m going to fewer WordCamps because I’m trying to expand outside the WordPress space. I’m still going to the local ones and a couple outside of my driving area because I see tons of value, but I also see value on other events.
For example, I’m trying to make a name for myself as someone who can help you set up a podcast – from scratch to live on Apple Podcasts. When I go to Podcast Movement in August, my goals will align with that, as I try to connect with people who could be potential clients, students, or course partners.Define your goals and pick conferences that will help you active those goals. Click To Tweet
If you’re a web designer who’s going to a conference for web designers, education and referral work will likely be your goals. But if you’re a web designer who specializes in wedding websites, then you should consider going to wedding expos.
Conferences are Expensive, but Super Valuable
Because of the way I measure ROI, I’ve gotten a considerable return on going to these events. Most of my podcast sponsors have come from people I’ve met at events. I’ve also gotten business partners, consulting clients, and good friends. That’s why I continue to go to them.
So…what everts are you planning on going to this year?