I’ve just returned from the one industry conference I attend each year, the IFP (Institute of Financial Planning) conference at Celtic Manor.
I attend this conference for several reasons. I love the social side – catching up with people I like and respect (most have both characteristics, but not always!) and who I interact with throughout the year on Twitter. There are always interesting speakers, and I never fail to come away with a notebook full of good ideas I can put into practice.
One reason I don’t go to the conference, however, is in order to meet the sponsors.
There, I’ve said it. Sorry.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Attending a conference is not cheap, and I want to come away with as much new knowledge as possible. I’m afraid I don’t get any knowledge from the sponsors and the exhibitors. It therefore seems to me there could be an opportunity here.
I DO want an exhibition section. I DO value the sponsors. But as much as my kids love it when I come home for all the pens, earphones, squeezy bars of gold and water bottles I’ve picked up from the sponsors, I would rather return home with more knowledge and ideas.
Content marketing is pretty much standard these days. Look across the the pages of this very web site and you’ll see Brett Davison dispensing valuable insight and know-how. He’s giving away lots of valuable content for free, and you could take his tips and apply them to your business.
There’s also a good chance, however, that you might engage Brett to help apply some of his ideas into your business. This would have the added advantage that his ideas can be tweaked and tailored to suit the individual firm. By giving out free content, he builds his position as an expert and the go-to person on practice management.
Two of the best exponents of Content Marketing are Sonja Jefferson (@SonjaJefferson) and Sharon Tanton (@sjtanton) who run a firm called Valuable Content. Practising what they preach, their site is full of tips and ideas on how to create content that will draw people in and have them asking for more. They also help clients who are setting up stands at exhibitions to attract visitors through content…
This is my suggestion to the corporate sponsors of conferences. Give away some of your knowledge. Engage the audience – and I don’t mean just by playing a Wii game (I’m sure I would have won that bowling if I’d just had one more go!).
It could be that you seek our opinion. You’ve got thousands of your customers in front of you, why not make it clear that you do not wish to sell anything but are simply looking for feedback? Alternatively, why not choose a specific topic and put your top expert on the stand? Draw us in, make it interesting. Give away content and knowledge and we will be far more likely to enjoy your company.
Putting up an exhibition stand is also not cheap. So come on, corporate sponsors, create stands that really make us want to come and talk to you.