Much has changed in the world of business over the past 18 months and perhaps no particular sector of American business has been impacted as much as conferences and special events. What once were mainstays upon which budgets were set and the annual corporate calendar revolved, the financial services industry – like most others – saw an almost exclusive shift to virtual hosting of conferences, user group meetings, association events, etc. And while conference committees have been pushed to be creative in finding ways to still host events in a virtual environment (Zoom break-out sessions, anyone?), the reality is that most attendees and sponsors found something lacking.
As we finish out 2021, we are seeing a return (albeit measured) to normalcy with some key industry events returning to in-person or hybrid format, including: FinovateFall, the Mortgage Bankers Association Convention & Expo, Money 20/20, the American Bankers Association Annual Convention, among others. For many, the return to in-person events is welcome, while for others it may still cause some trepidation. Regardless, companies are investing in participating and with the return to in-person conferences, they need to make the most of the investment.
From a public relations standpoint, industry events remain one of the best venues to promote your brand and announce your company’s news. In all of the events listed above, there will be a physical media presence at the show and with that, additional earned media content produced by industry media. Since it has been some time since many of us have “worked a trade show,” here are some proven strategies to help ensure your organization is making the most of the opportunity:
- Schedule company news to coincide with the event – This accomplishes a few things: it provides your sales and marketing teams with new information to promote to prospects and customers to help set meetings at the show, and it provides the media and other key influencers with content that they will need to build their editorial coverage from the event.
- When scheduling meetings at the show, don’t forget the media – As much as we now rely on technology to do our jobs, financial services is still largely a relationship-based industry. That extends to the media as well. A simple “get to know you and your company” meeting with an influential editor or reporter can yield significant, ongoing earned media opportunities throughout the rest of the year.
- Make the most of your social media channels – Increasingly, conference attendees and media are getting information about the event and setting their schedules based on what they see via social media. In B2B, LinkedIn and Twitter still reign supreme in this regard, so make sure that these channels are being leveraged heavily before, during and even after a major industry event.
- Take advantage of the educational opportunities that in-person events provide – Conferences have always served as a venue for professionals to collaborate and learn new information that will help them in their careers. For any professionals who have joined the industry over the last 18-24 months, they have missed out on this benefit. Attendees should be sure to set aside time for professional development, attend informative sessions or participate in industry workgroups.
Based on attendance and feedback from a few recent in-person conferences that have already happened, it certainly seems that people are ready to get back to participating in events. As we head into 2022, it’s our expectation that we will see the number of in-person events only increasing. So it may finally be time to pull that business suit out of storage.