Looking down the barrel of another sold out AWS re:Invent this week in Las Vegas has me wondering: With the crazy growth of tradeshows, is it possible to rise above the noise?
Dreamforce, the big annual salesforce.com user conference, rolled through San Francisco in September, bringing with it 160,000+ attendees — a crowd so large that Salesforce needed to bring in a cruise ship in order to ensure enough lodging space for everyone. VMworld had a record attendance this year of 23,000. RSA brought in 33,000 this past spring. Oracle’s OpenWorld is expected to attract upward of 60,000, with 15 million people tuning in online. Crowds this big at tech shows are no longer an anomaly (okay, the “Dreamboat” is a bit of an anomaly). Tech shows and conferences are becoming more and more crowded, and in turn it’s becoming even harder for vendors to make an impact.
Whether it’s your very first show or you’re a seasoned conference-goer, here’s what you need to know to make the most of your conference experience.
When the free expo pass is the enemy
Conferences are not cheap. Securing a booth on the expo floor alone can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000 depending on the show. Even after this initial investment, there’s no guarantee you’ll have qualified leads visiting your booth. Shows with free expo passes in particular can create an unproductive environment with looky-loos eating up your time. My advice? Be as selective as possible when deciding which shows to attend. Smaller shows that are focused on users and technical sessions are a great investment, as are shows that tap into your verticals.
Get off the show floor
Every year during RSA, we partner up with Securosis to host the Disaster Recovery Breakfast. We rent out a restaurant nearby the venue and invite friends, clients and colleagues to take a break from the conference with drinks, food and conversations that don’t require shouting. Over the years, I’ve seen great success with my clients hosting similar offsite events such as a party or customer appreciation event during busy shows. By taking time away from the chaos of the expo floor, you’re able to create an environment that is intimate and facilitates meaningful conversation. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to sweeten the deal with a complimentary drink or free hor d’oeuvres.
Swag in all sizes
Hot new consumer tech like drones, 3D printers and Apple Watches are all the rage at booths these days. However, never underestimate the power of a quality t-shirt. Invest in good material, a fun design, or a cheeky slogan — make it a shirt people would want to wear out of the house.
With the right strategy, you can rise above the noise at conferences and make some of your own. You just have to be smart and creative about it.