Spring! It’s filled with the promise of a rich and colorful season. It’s also a reminder that industry conferences and events are ramping up, with their own potential for growing customer relationships and elevating industry visibility.

I’m delighted to learn that, after years of decline, federal event attendance is trending up. On average, feds are now attending 1-2 virtual events and 1-2 in-person events a year. However, too many GovCons are participating in conferences with partial plans in place, missing out on precious opportunities to connect with customers, buyers and the media.

Here are five fundamentals to make the most of your next conference or event.

1. Maximize Exhibit Presence and Sponsorships

For events they’ve vetted and approved for investment, most companies are practiced at securing a booth, creating signage and securing appropriate sponsorships. Marketing budget and resources are allocated to creating the company “home” on the show floor and placing the logo in event promotions.

Once these basics are covered, be sure you’re coordinating across marketing, business development and communications to maximize your presence:

  • Booth Schedule: Use a booth schedule to assign hours and duties to all personnel attending the event. Ensure the hours are equitably split across the team. Define the right mix of personnel (executives, BD, technical, marketing) for each shift.
  • Team Prep: Before the event, assemble the team to let everyone know your goals, what’s happening at the event and what is expected of each participant. It’s also great for morale! Cover special event attendance, any educational sessions you’re delivering, attire, booth schedule, planned customer and media visits, networking best practices, media policy, booth behavior (no sitting; greet every guest; scan badges) and expectations (be on time; be a host; communicate with the team).

2. Complete the Call Plan Weeks Before You Leave

Some GovCons only allow BD personnel to attend events if they have confirmed meetings with customers or prospective customers. I can see why. Client meetings are an essential element of any smart conference investment.

Four-to-six weeks before your big event, have your BD personnel start their outreach. Book appointments for the event – at the booth or in a private meeting space. Be sure to keep marketing in the loop, so all appointments appear on the master schedule. Then, prepare for those meetings as if they were happening in the client’s office, with the added advantage that you may have greater access to executives who travel to the event.

3. Connect with the Media

As an exhibitor, you’ll likely have access to the press list, so you’ll know which reporters and editors are attending. They will be super busy, but… they are there to see what’s new in the industry and what people are talking about.

Ideally, you have some news to announce. If it’s big news, such as a new product or service, you will want top media to know in advance. Share your press release with them under embargo, so they are prepared to write an article the day you publish. If you are demonstrating new technology, invite them to the demo. If you’ve recently hired a key executive, invite select reporters for an introductory meeting.

Even if they’re not available for a meeting, be sure you send your press release or media advisory with a personal note to key reporters. And make your press kit available in the conference press room – whether it’s a physical room or online resource – so interested reporters can easily learn more and follow up.

4. Promote Your Participation

It’s not enough to have a great booth and a senior team at the event. At least six weeks in advance, start sharing your plans. Use social media. (Be sure to include the event hashtag). Send inviting pre-show emails outlining your plans. Look for opportunities to spread the word, so federal attendees know what you’re doing and where to find you.

Remember to promote your participation after the event concludes. Use the leads you collected in the booth and networking events to send a follow-up email. You could link to a blog summarizing the trends you observed. Or share a relevant white paper. Create a valuable call-to-action for contacts to take the next step, even if it’s a small one.

5. Evaluate Results

About one week after everyone is back, have a team meeting to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Be honest. What was helpful that you’ll want to do again? How well did your lead process capture the information you needed to follow up quickly? Did the follow-up happen as planned? Insight from these evaluations should guide your next conference investment.

Coordinating your conference presence across your marketing, PR and BD teams will help you get the most out of every event. If you’re looking for support in promoting your next event, just let us know. We’d be happy to help!