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Marketing yourself at events and tradeshows: Formulating your game plan

Now that you have the "why" and know what you need to do to prepare for a conference, here’s part 3 of this series. Whether you’re preparing to go to QuickBooks Connect or another conference, you’ve got to have a solid game plan. Here’s my advice, along with input and feedback from fellow accountants in our community.

Strategizing. I attend events and tradeshows for many reasons, which means I have to be intentional in prioritizing these often-competing interests. This is a necessary step for me to ensure I make the most of my time while staying on task. I start formulating my game plan by acquiring a copy of the schedule and layout of the conference facility ahead of time in order to map out where I need to be at any given moment. This also helps me make a schedule prior to the sessions beginning so I can either download or copy it in an app or document, ensuring I have it handy to hit the ground running on arrival. 

Here are some additional insights from other prominent members of the accounting community: 

“For every event I go to, I have a different goal that I want to accomplish. In this sense, my goals determine how I prepare,” says Donna Reade, owner of her firm, Team Reade LLC. “I get an email address from every person I talk to in order to add them to my mailing list. And, although I’m not looking to connect with everyone, I always have a few targeted people that I want to make sure I make contact with.”

Dena Martin, owner of Smooth Sailing Bookkeeping, offers this advice: "Determine what your shortcomings are. Figure out what services or skills you are either not good at or don’t want to do and actively seeking out people who you can partner with to fill that gap. On the flip side, what are you great at? What do you enjoy doing? Make sure you include that in your elevator speech."

"For learning, review the materials ahead of time and figure out what top three sessions you need to take to improve your business," said Ufuoma Ogaga, owner of Goshen Bookkeeping. "Be very strategic about it. For networking, do online research of the people you know have some of the knowledge gap you need and make it a priority to get to know them at the conference. Do the same thing for vendor tables. 

Ernest Cook, principal data engineer with Better Idea Group added, “If your goal is purely marketing yourself, then I would say you should come equipped with a brand that you are really able to prove the value of, showing that you’re an expert in this area.”

Ernest said there are multiple ways to do this: 

  • Show the brand at every opportunity. T-shirts, pre-made flyers, buttons, pins hats and other items all contribute to overall awareness.
  • Place yourself wherever the people you are marketing to are most likely to be. 
  • Don’t undercut the brand. Be mindful that you are "on stage" and every interaction you have will impact your brand. 

“In order for a networking event to be worth the time and money, I need to walk away with networking relationships that will eventually lead to referrals and new clients," said Suzi Bredbenner, owner of 1 Particular CFO, LLC. "It’s also rewarding to learn something new at these events, enabling me to bring back effective practices that I can begin to use right away in my business."

Some additional suggestions and key takeaways. When it comes down to it, your number one goal for attending these kinds of events should always be to enjoy the experience – which is much more easily accomplished if you already have a game plan. In this sense, strategizing ensures you maximize your time at any conference. After all, you paid to be there, and you want to get your money’s worth!

I’ll leave you with this advice from Ingrid Edstrom, owner of Polymath LLC: Focus on giving without needing to “close the sale.“ Find ways to provide value to the people putting on the conference; be a resource, and they might ask you to teach at the next one!

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