How To Make The Most Out Of A Conference
This September, our three Marketing Team Members went to HubSpot's INBOUND Conference in Boston. We took our highlights and want to use them to help your team make the most out of your future conference experiences.
INBOUND is a 4-day conference that focuses primarily on marketing and sales. After our experience with this incredible conference, we wanted to be able to pass along some tips for conferences in general, as well as specific key takeaways.
Our 3 Marketing Team Members sat down and came up with 5 helpful tips for anyone attending a conference.
1. Go with a purpose
What's the intention of you going to this conference? Are you there to create business connections and relationships? If that's the case, consider staying in the host hotel to be as close to the action as possible. Make sure you always have business cards on your person and dress to impress. Or, are you there for professional development? If that's the case, then you can probably save some money by staying at a hotel slightly farther away from the conference venue. Make sure you maximize your time and get into as many relevant sessions as possible.
2. Do your research
If there are multiple sessions during each time slot for you to pick from, do some research to find out which makes the most sense for you. Look into the speakers and their background, in addition to considering the topic of the lecture.
3. Make yourself comfortable
Often in event venues, the air conditioning is on full blast to accommodate the large number of people in that area. Try dressing in layers or throwing an extra sweatshirt in your bag for the day. Bring a bottle of water and some small snacks to hold you over in between meals. Invest in a portable charger for your cell phone and/or laptop to make sure you don't have to fight for an outlet between lectures.
4. Take notes and more notes
There's a lot going on at conferences, so you don't want to risk forgetting anything that might be valuable. Take notes on every session and speaker that you're going to want to remember when you get back to the office.
5. Create a follow-up plan
Use your notes to create an action plan moving forward. Try laying out a 30-60-90 day plan, as well as one for 91+ days. This will help you show the tangible value to your team of your attendance at this conference. It also holds you accountable for taking those great ideas and putting them into action.
Q: Why is it beneficial for teams and individuals to go to these types of learning-based conferences?
Abby Dixon: Getting together with a huge group of like-minded people who do what you do is affirming. For individuals, you can meet new people. For teams, you can both meet new people AND get to know your own team better as you travel, learn, and experience new things together.
Jonathan Snavely: Conferences like Inbound give the team an opportunity to bond and build trust, but more importantly, make us better at our jobs.
Mackenzie Bender: The importance of continued learning cannot be understated. The best way we can grow and develop as professionals is by taking the time to learn new things.
Q: How do you feel like going to INBOUND benefited you?
AD: Inbound is a huge, creative space that helps me generate ideas. They always have very honest speakers who talk about their challenges and inspire me to think about my contributions to my world and my workplace. This year in particular, I was encouraged by the way Inbound taught us about their idea to “Grow Better” and use business to generously serve others well.
JS: Many times we are stuck in the daily grind and lack the opportunity to run ideas and strategies past our peers. For me, Inbound provides affirmation but also challenges some of my own sales and marketing philosophies. Some of these new philosophies I embrace immediately and others I spend months ruminating about this different way of thinking.
"Don't block the exit. Don't make it hard to cancel. 89% of people will buy if the cancellation process is easy." - Dharmesh Shah
MB: More than anything else, Inbound never ceases to provide a new way of doing things or looking at certain tasks. It breaks me out of the mindset of simply crossing things off a to do list and gets me back to thinking through each task strategically from start to finish.
Q: How do you feel like going to INBOUND benefited The Nook?
AD: I think the skills we learn at Inbound make us better and more effective at our jobs. Getting away and being with a very diverse group of people opens our minds and fuels ideas. Inbound prevents the feeling of being stuck in a creative rut.
JS: Another great thing about Inbound is the tactical takeaways. I’ve attended many conferences that provide you with a lot of pie in the sky ideas and you leave feeling great but then you return to the office and realize these items are not really actionable based on the company structure. Because Inbound is so diverse, small, medium and large companies are all represented and I will always find at least one nugget that I can bring back and start working on immediately along with some long-term goals.
MB: Inbound is a great way to learn the latest and greatest ideas across all aspects of our jobs. If you tell marketers for years that the best day to send emails is Monday, eventually your Monday inbox gets so inundated that a new 'best day' begins to emerge. Best practices aren't something you learn once. They're constantly being updated and morphing to fit your changing customers. I was able to leave Inbound, get to my desk at The Nook, and immediately start to act on the things I had learned.
"80% of companies believe they deliver superior customer service, while only 8% of customers believe they receive superior customer service." - Dylan Sellberg
Q: What was your favorite part of INBOUND18?
AD: This year my favorite part was learning about new socially responsible companies that I hadn’t heard of before. It was cool to hear about how they use design to communicate trust and quality, and how their business practices both generate revenue and help other people.
"Stories are remembered 22x more than facts." - Molly Hayward
JS: Brian Halligan – Flywheel – This was by far my favorite presentation. Delighting our clients has always been top of mind for me because over the last 7 years of my career, our current customers have always been our #1 source for new business. Whether that is repeat or referrals, 60-70% of our revenue was coming from this contact source. Why wouldn’t we want to spend more on delighting our current customers and letting them be our best sales people? I’m not saying we should ignore building awareness altogether. We have a great opportunity to speak with our current customers and ask what causes them friction. While I’m confident we already have a good idea, I always love data that confirms this information. If we can remove friction for current customers, this will make it even easier for us to attract new customers and the flywheel will rotate faster.
MB: Dharmesh's keynote really resonated with me. He discussed everything from company culture, to corporate social responsibility, to becoming transparent with customers. No one is perfect, which means no company is perfect. Dharmesh shared that when a company messes up, if they apologize and fix it - 96% of those customers will buy from you again. The power of owning mistakes and making them right is something I think everyone who deals with customers could learn.