No matter the industry, one of the keys to lasting stability and business success is making your company’s name synonymous with authority in the space. Having superior products is a great way to do that, but let’s face it: the most well-known name in an industry isn’t always the one with the strongest reputation for quality products – just ask Microsoft. In reality, product superiority can be fleeting and constant competition all but guarantees displacement as the top dog in any industry.
To cement your company’s position as a leader in its field, it’s far more important to act the part than it is to try and overwhelm the competition in the market. One of the surest ways to do that is to plan and host an industry conference that will attract the best and the brightest in your field to attend and lend their voices. For businesses with no prior experience planning a conference, it can seem like a daunting task. Here’s what you need to do to pull it off.
Enlist the Help of Media Partners
One of the biggest challenges business face when planning an industry conference is finding ways to secure commitments from the needed speakers and presenters that will make the event worth attending. That can’t happen if nobody knows about your conference, or worse, don’t see it as a major event right from the beginning. It’s a catch-22 scenario, and to beat it, you’ll need help in the form of media coverage. Seek out trade publications and media outlets that are relevant to your industry and offer them the chance to play a role in your event. To secure their help, consider offering them perks like exclusive coverage of press events at the conference, or priority access to interview important guests.
Aim for the Center
Whenever possible, plan to host your conference as close to an industry hotspot as possible. That will assure easy access for your target market to attend. For example, if you’re in a maritime-related industry, you’ll likely want to host your event in the northeast (think New York or Boston), or in the Pacific Northwest (like Seattle). That will keep your event anchored in a place where a variety of industry players already have a presence, and they’ll be more likely to take part. If your industry is new or has no such geographic center, you’re going to want to look for a tourist-friendly spot. One look at this security token conference listing illustrates the point. With events in locales like Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale, and Dubai, they’re sure to attract guests from far-flung places, if only due to the lure of the event’s location.
Focus on the Sponsor Experience
One of the real secrets to planning a successful industry conference is less about the quality of the event than it is about the impression it makes on a small subset of attendees: your sponsors. Unless your business has a limitless budget for the event, you’re going to have to rely on attracting other organizations that will sponsor parts of the event. While you have to make sure all attendees see value in the experience and feel that attending has been worthwhile, it is those sponsors who will determine if your event becomes a yearly industry staple or is a one-off failure. Make sure to provide your sponsors with plenty of marketing materials that highlight their participation, and arrange an itinerary at the event that will guarantee they get to interact with the guests that they find most relevant and useful. Wherever possible, go the extra mile to make your sponsors feel like they’re special, and that their participation has yielded results for their business.
Aim High, Manage Expectations
For your first event, it’s important to try and hold your business and its plans to as high a standard as possible, but understand that industry conferences and other hosted events rarely come off without a hitch. In any gathering of people, there are bound to be issues that are going to crop up. As long as you do whatever you must to keep things moving as smoothly as possible, your guests (and more importantly, your sponsors) will understand and overlook any minor imperfections in the event. Don’t be afraid to highlight everything that is going well, too. After all, the value that attendees see in the conference your business arranged will reflect on your business and brand, so you’ll want everyone to know who to thank at the end of the day. If all goes well, you should be able to turn the event into a yearly occurrence, and that will entrench your company as a hub for thought in your industry. At the end of the day, that’s the kind of marketing that no product – no matter how successful – can buy.