Going to a Conference to Network? Here's How Domains Can Carry the Day

Business conferences can be a great resource for entrepreneurs and their employees. The right conferences can provide education, inspiration and support to help small business owners return to work re-energized and ready to tackle new challenges. They also provide a great environment to network with like-minded professionals.

However, those benefits often come at a significant investment of money and time. It's not uncommon for conferences to cost thousands of dollars per attendee, plus travel costs. There's also the social pressure of networking, cocktail hours and other mixers that many founders find uncomfortable. Factor in a few days (or more) away from the office, and it's understandable why many entrepreneurs struggle with the decision to prioritize conferences.

Preparation — and a little creative marketing — can help ensure you see a positive ROI on conferences and events. Here's how to prepare before, during and after a conference to get the most out of the experience — with the help of a dedicated domain.

Before the Event: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

You wouldn't go into an important business meeting without doing preparation. The same attitude applies for conferences. Before attending any event (and, ideally, before deciding to attend or not), you should ask yourself "What do I want out of this experience, and how do I increase the chances of making it happen?"

Networking is likely to play into your decision since meeting new people (clients, suppliers, partners, mentors, investors, etc.) is a key element in small-business success.

Take these steps:

  • Research the event's speakers, sponsors, and attendees ahead of time. Make a list of the people you'd most like to meet. Reach out to them ahead of time to arrange for coffee meetings.
  • For big conferences, register a dedicated domain (e.g., joeatbusinessconference.info) and set up a site where you can introduce other attendees to you or your business before the fact. Include a photo of yourself, a short bio and a profile of business. Also, provide links to all of your social channels, along with standard contact information.
  • In your pre-conference emails, invite fellow attendees (or sponsors, speakers, etc.) to learn more about you and your company by visiting the site you've set up for the purpose. It's a great way to make sure you're sharing the most relevant information with the new connections you'll make.
  • Offer something of value to encourage visits to your dedicated conference website. You can set up a special offer just for conference attendees (say, 10% off an introductory service in the week after the event), or give away something valuable in exchange for contact information — eBooks and white papers work great!
  • A top-level domain like .PROMO is a great choice if you're planning on offering freebies. If your focus is on sharing information, you may want to use a domain with a TLD like .INFO.

During the Event: Going Live and Memorable URLs

Registering a dedicated domain for an event is also great way to share the experience with your team.

During the event:

  • Go live (assuming sessions allow broadcasting) and offer key insights to your followers as the sessions unfold. As you meet other attendees, you can invite them to visit your conference domain to follow along with your experience.
  • Share your dedicated domain instead of a business card —that is likely to get lost — to increase the chance people will follow up after the event. Sharing a memorable URL where people can get your contact information is a creative way to stand out from the crowd.
  • Mention any promotions you're running or information you're sharing to drive visits to your dedicated conference domain. Just remember to play it cool — no-one wants to be sold to at a conference. If the information or offer is truly valuable to attendees, they'll seek it out even if you're not laying it on thick.

After the Event: Share, Share, Share

Sharing your conference experience not only strengthens your connection with attendees, but it also creates opportunities for connecting with people who missed the conference — some will want to learn how the event panned out and what the key takeaways were. You'll likely see a spike in visits in the two or three days after the event, and then again when next year's event is announced, if it's an annual conference.

After the event:

  • Share your key takeaways and impressions.
  • If you attend multiple conferences a year, register separate domains for each of them — it's a a great method to track engagement. Traffic and referrals generated from each domain will create a data-driven picture of which conferences to attend in future years...and, more importantly, which ones you can skip

You can even choose to publish your findings to help advise others in your industry on what conferences offer the most value. In no time, you'll be the one other attendees are trying to meet at cocktail receptions!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018