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The 5 Icks You'll Find At Conferences (And How To Avoid Them)

Regina Magaril
Posted by Regina Magaril|Published on October 11, 2023
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We’re deep into conference season in the B2B SaaS world.

But are they worth the friggin’ huge upfront cost?

Like all marketing questions, the answer is invariably “it depends”. 

In this post I’ll share five conference icks (not-so short for icky) and what you can do to get the most from your events by avoiding them. 

Ick #1: Shark Tank Wannabes

If you’re faced with someone who watched an episode of Shark Tank on the plane ride to the conference, you may encounter someone who thinks business gets done in 45 second soundbites. 

“Pitch me!”, they’ll say as they cross their arms and channel their inner Mr. Wonderful. 

But the truth is, this person isn’t going to be able to move the deal forward on their own. As much as they wish they had a billion dollars to invest, they’re going still going to have to get signoff from their CFO for anything over $10k. 

How to handle a Shark Tank Wannabe:

Don’t fall for it! No one has closed a SaaS deal on a cold elevator pitch. Instead, ask them some contextual questions before talking about your solution. Get them talking about their problems and company before explaining what you can do for them.

Any good AE will avoid jumping right into a pitch without first gathering intel to personalize their approach. Observe and learn from our sales friends.

Ick #2: Not measuring conference ROI

Conference booths are f*king expensive. And if your plan only consists of a follow up email to the the badge scanner lead list after the event, then it’ll be tough to prove the value. 

But if you think of attending an event like a campaign in itself, they can be a high ROI activity to fill your pipeline. 

How to think of an event like a campaign:

  • Pre-event: How can your booth presence amplify your ongoing marketing campaigns? Is there an opportunity to piggyback on the conference with your own side event?

  • Partnerships: Are there other brands you can work with to split costs and increase distribution?

  • Activation: Is there a way to show up to this conference that’s unique? 

  • Day-off: How are you going to process leads? How are you going to get people to your booth?

  • Follow-up: How are you going to turn handshakes into pipeline? 

  • Reporting: How are you going to measure the performance of the event to get budget to do it again? 

This is a lot to take in, but we've finally built out the perfect dashboard that helps us map the health of our event program. 

And you can access it right here. This is how we’re able to keep track of pipeline generated from events so we can justify the cost per lead.

Be sure to grab your copy and forward this to your field marketing co-workers so they can get one also.

Field Marketing Dashboard

Ick #3: Scan Me’s

Badge scanning is a strange behavior that’s permeated nearly every trade show and conference I’ve ever been to. But I’ve also noticed that they make people behave in totally unnatural ways. 

A major ick is when someone asks you to scan their badge before you even say hello. These people are affectionately called “Scan Me’s”, and they’re more common than you’d hope. 

How to handle Scan Me’s:

If you’re confronted with a Scan Me, use it as a discovery opportunity. Respond with: “Before I do, I want to make sure this is something that would be useful for you. What made you approach me in the first place?” 

In my opinion it’s better to have a smaller list of highly qualified list of prospects to follow up with than a massive list of low quality leads to waste your time. Be picky about whose badge you scan!

Ick #4: Travel Talk

Meeting strangers all day is exhausting. But when you’re stuck in close proximity to someone while in line for the lunch buffet, let’s not resort to talking about travel. We all took planes, trains, and automobiles to get here – I get it! But we’re better than that!

How to have better conversations:

Here are some new throwaway conversation topics you can use to fill the air instead: 

  • “Have you gone to any sessions at this conference? Any takeaways you’re leaving with?”

  • “What are you hoping to get out of this conference?”

  • “What has been keeping you busy lately? What about outside of work?”

Hopefully these help you get into interesting conversations faster. 

Ick #5: Party Fouls

Headed to the cocktail hour or after-party? Here are a few party fouls to look out for:

  • Wearing your backpack to the bar: Take the extra 20 minutes to go back to your hotel room to drop off your branded bag. On top of making you look like a kid getting ready for their first day of school, it’s also going to be a burden to carry all night. Do yourself a favor and ditch it before hitting the town.

  • Not including others in the conversation: Be a pal – always be the first to make an introduction. Even if you’re super deep in a convo that could lead to a deal, it’s perfectly fine to make a quick intro then say “We’re in the middle of something specific, can you come back in a few?” Nothing more awkward than third-wheeling a deep convo. 

  • Coffee breath: Long conference days often require multiple trips to the coffee table. Throw a pack of gum or mouthwash in your bag to keep your pitch smelling fresh all day and night.

Get Your Copy of The Field Marketing Dashboard Template

Events and conferences have a huge cost, but we've put together a dashboard template you can use to make sure you're able to prove the ROI.

This template will help you:

  • Identifying events that are meeting, exceeding or underperforming - and problem solving immediately

  • Making data-driven decisions on where to allocate marketing budgets, tweak event strategies, and more

  • Collaborating with your sales team on moving specific opportunities forward

Get your copy today (and forward this to your event colleagues).

Regina Magaril

Regina Magaril

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