How to Improve Your Brand through Conferences

conference

If you work in the corporate world, you probably end up going to at least one conference or industry event per year. The great thing about these conferences is that they are usually industry specific so people that you need to be brand yourself with will be there. Whether you are a speaker, press, or just a regular attendee there are always things you can do brand yourself at a conference.

Speakers
If you are a speaker you are one step ahead of the game because you are already branding yourself as an expert. This is your time to shine so here is what you should do:

  • Keep it short and sweet – Don’t you hate those boring presentations that are long and put you to sleep? Well, don’t do that then.
  • Entertain people and make them laugh – Some of the best speakers I have ever heard entertain the audience. More importantly, the great speakers that most people seem to remember have put forth a performance of sorts, rather than just a presentation.
  • Educate – If you can’t provide any value to the audience, then what’s the point of speaking?
  • Answer their questions – Usually, at the end of your speech there will be time for question and answers. The area that most speakers fail at is that they don’t answer the questions that the audience asked. Answering questions that no one asked is useless, so don’t do it. One trick is to re-iterate the question to the person asking it to make sure you understand what they are asking. Nothing irritates people more than if you don’t answer their question.
  • Give away your presentation – People are more likely to remember you if you have a conversation with them. A great way to do this is to tell everyone at the end of your speech that you will email them your presentation if they give you their business card. This is great because you are building contacts as well as talking to more people.

Press
Whether you are actually press or you lied so that you can get a press pass you should use it to your advantage. When people see press badges they will either be afraid to talk to you or they will want to talk to you. For those individuals that want to talk to you, here is what you should do:

  1. Learn who they are and not just about their company. Don’t just do this because you have to due to your press pass, but do it because you actually want to learn who they are.
  2. Next, let them know who you are and what you do so that they can relate the conversation to you.
  3. Once you get to know them and they get to know you start discussing their product or service and find out how you can help them.
  4. Lastly you should trade business cards so that you can keep the conversation going and more importantly build a relationship.

Attendee
If you are not a speaker or part of the press, you can still brand yourself through conferences. Here are some effective ways I have seen attendees brand themselves:

  • Quality over quantity – It would be great to know everyone at a conference but that is usually unrealistic. Instead of trying to network just to obtain business cards, try and build special relationships with a few people that you really connect with.
  • Don’t puss out – The biggest mistake attendees make is that they don’t hang out after hours with others. The best time to brand yourself is when everyone is having fun after hours. Whether that is at the bar or parties make sure you are hanging out with the A, B, C and even D listers.
  • Get involved – When you are attending sessions you should interact with the people sitting next to you. When people ask the speakers questions that they don’t answer correctly, you should speak up in a polite way and answer the question.
  • Run the floor – Most conferences have trade floors where companies exhibit. I know you don’t want to hear sales pitches but you should still visit the booths because those companies should know about you. There is nothing wrong with being head hunted by other companies if they can pay you more money.

I have only been going to conferences for a few years so there are probably tons of other things you can do to brand yourself at these events. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any tips to share.

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Comments

  1. Hi Neil,
    I totally agree with you I have learned so many things myself, as one of my coach says “come early and stay late”

    Vijay

  2. Neil, this is a good summary article, giving people an idea of what to consider and perhaps google for more information.

    A few months ago, I went into much more detail regarding marketing tactics at the infamous LeWeb3 conference in Paris.

    • They only suck when you have to speak at 5 plus in a month and you’re only home a few days out of the month. But you probably know this better than anyone else. ;)

  3. Chris, so do unconferences. All that matters is who else is there.

  4. Nathan Ketsdever :

    If you can afford to give out USB drives with your powerpoint and your icon or contact on the side
    thats pretty money for brand identity.

    At the very least, having your Powerpoint or PDF posted before the conference or Tagged with the conference name is nice.

    • I usually just post my slides online before the conference, but I prefer getting peoples’ business card if they want the slides. Not only does it give me a better opportunity to get to know them, but it also allows me to ask for feedback on my presentation.

  5. I’m admittedly very new to personal branding and networking (ironically, I’ve always focused on helping my clients look good, not me). I’m loving your blog. I’m subscribed to it and look forward to some great conversations.

    This post in particular struck a chord because I recently attended a fantastic seminar (with Mitch Joel of Twist Image) and when I left I realized I’d blown this amazing opportunity to connect with all these people in my industry who I wouldn’t have normally met.

    • Mario, I am glad you learned from your experience. We all make mistakes but what sets the successful people apart is that they learn from their mistakes.

  6. Yves Marie Danie Baptiste :

    Hi Neil,

    I’m loving the info here on your blog! I was sent over here by an email sent to me by “Copyblogger” and I just had to see what all the ‘fuss’ was about.

    Glad to have stopped by! :)

    Keep it coming,

    Yves Marie Danie Baptiste
    MLMOnlineMagazine

  7. Conferences can suck, if you do too many in a row and especially if you “puss out” on networking!

    I like to give people something physical to take home. I’ve been giving my little purple booklet (it stand out), Secrets of Successful Blogging, and find people love to have something, anything, that’s free and has some value.
    Doesn’t always work — I recrntly had a surprise crowd of 1500, but only had about 50 booklets!

    What diffuses my efforts are the variety of conferences I speak at: Internet/Marketing/Blogging related, as well as information security. In other words, I don’t have one single brand.

  8. Hi Neil, I dropped by from Brian (aka CopyBlogger)’s site. I believe Personal-Branding is definitely one of the essential life skills to pick up. Having participated in conferences/events as “Press” and “Attendee”, I can relate to these simple but effective tips you just shared =)

    I have just written an article entitled “5 Proven Tips to get the most out of any Seminar“. I think it is very relevant to what you have discussed here. Do feel free to have a look and give me your feedback!

    Cheers
    SJ
    RichGrad.com

  9. Hey Neil,

    Excellent site. I’ve started to work on my own personal branding as of late and your post outlines some key aspects that I had missed. You now own a spot on my office bulletin board ;).

    Thanks!

    Paul Bradish

  10. thanks for the post. another thing: if you are an attantdee, be the first person to ask a question. the speaker will remember you because you saved them from that long pause when everybody is afraid to ask a question. plus, everybody in the room is looking at you!

  11. nice article neil… and i completely agree about having fun / making education a priority :)

    re: your ‘don’t puss out’ recommendation, i’ve found that hanging out / having dinner with people at conf’s is a terrific way to get to know them. often it’s the *unstructured* meetings & activities that are the most fun / rewarding.

    one related suggestion: offer to take people out to dinner, and/or coordinate or setup dinners with interesting folks who you think would enjoy meeting each other. this always seems to be a winner, for both me & other folks.

    lastly, another suggestion is to organize your own conference or usergroup on a particular subject, and invite cool / knowledgeable / interesting people to attend. you’ll get to know them, and you’ll get cred from your audience for putting on an educational event (assuming it is ;)

    personally, i think getting the chance to meet folks offline / in meatspace is a lot of fun, and i really enjoy doing it when i can…

    - dave mcclure
    http://500hats.typepad.com/

    • Dave you make a great point about taking people out to dinner. Not only is this good for branding but as you already know it is great for business.

  12. Great ideas Neil. I also try to get the attendee list when I first arrive or before if possible and then review it to identify 10 people I would especially like to meet. This helps me to search out those people in addition to everyone else I happen to meet. I also think one of the most important but neglected parts of networking at these conferences is the post-conference follow up. All of those collected business cards will be worth nothing without efforts to stay in touch.

  13. Neil! I just came back from another seminar. I applied some of the personal branding tips you shared and guess what? A gentleman sent me home! Well here’s the situation..

    I was one of the attendees who volunteered to speak on the stage when the speaker asked us to share our experiences. So after the seminar, when I was waiting for a cab, he pulled up his car beside me and asked if I needed a lift. I said sure.. Initially he wanted to drop me off in a central area because we were living poles apart. Then as I was sharing with him my vision for my website, he became really intrigued and sent me all the way home.

    We are meeting up again to discuss possible collaborations and the best part is what he said before he dropped me off. “Young man, you have a bright future!”
    =D

    The power of personal branding…

  14. My life on the D list, nice blog idea… too bad Kathy already trademarked it.

    Nice suggestions. I would add to the list make sure your live is in shape and be true to yourself… you’re more memorable that way even if the memories are a little odd or blurry. =)

  15. Again, great post. I am invited to speak about 2 – 3 times a month:

    - I’ll be doing the National Network of Accountants breakfast this Tuesday, “How to Differentiate Yourself” on Long Island.
    - Podcamp On-line on July 28, “How to Podcast by Phone.”
    - September 16: “Cross Island YMCA, Keynote MC” in Queens, NY.
    - Sept 28, I’ll be speaking at the Assoc. of Divorce Financial Planners national conference on Sept. 28 in Westchester, NY.
    … just to name a few.

    Neil: Your suggestions are great… I may have 2 more:

    As a speaker, ASK THE AUDIENCE QUESTIONS… it’s a great way to gain interaction, buy-in, speak less, and edify key people in the group.

    As an attendee, B.Y.O.B… Bring Your Own Badge… Don’t just use their standard or your business card. In fact, if you can… create Badges for colleagues [watch how your relationship soars... and how you are able to brand yourself on their body... even without your name or logo. Hint: Use a color theme.]

    ~ Vikram Rajan
    PersonalBrandMarketing.com

  16. Hi Neil
    Having sat through many dull conference presentations I agree that being able to make your audience laugh is a plus. I would add to your list that a good speaker will tell engaging stories that the audience will remember. It’s very easy to induce information overload. Speakers often give too much detail from a genuine desire to give value to their audience. However, a few carefully chosen points made memorable in a graphic way through well designed anecdotes and stories is a much better approach. After all when the delegates are socializing after the formal sessions you want them to remember and discuss what you said. With good stories they are likely to remember you and your personal brand long after the conference is over.

    • You are totally right about the stories. One presenter that I always seems to remember is Guy Kawasaki and it’s because of all the stories he tells throughout his presentations.

  17. How do you “obtain” a press pass?
    Looking to go to my first conference but the price is sky high!

  18. I’d never even considered personal branding before. I guess I do it naturally but it’s interesting to sit down and think about it. I’ve always just kind of relied on luck, I guess.

    I’ll give these tips a shot and see what happens.

    Thanks!

  19. If you are the speaker in a conference, you have already achieved 99% of the cake…

  20. This is the best way to improve the brand name. Conferencing helps to get you interact with lot of people.

  21. Nice, You got a free lunch of this!

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