One of the things I always make time for is attending events and finding engaging experiences. So how do you select which events to participate in based on the reality of time and budget constraints, and how do you measure the ROI on attending events? (Note, this post is only about attending and not sponsoring, speaking at, or exhibiting at events.)
Prior to COVID-19 changing the event (and frankly my business) landscape, I strategically planned out the events I wanted to attend. There were well-known large tradeshows and conferences, local programs, and niche industry events. For every event on my list, I researched the cost, the audience, and the sessions (speakers, topics, format). Then I prioritized the list based on budget, time commitment, and balance of topics. My philosophy was to try at least one new paid event a quarter, and I’d compare the cost vs. what revenue I was (theoretically) forgoing by participating. It was a pure business transaction in my mind that had to have a net positive dollar amount in return.
Fast forward to the past six months, my well-thought out plan was clearly not realistic since many of the events were canceled, postponed, or reformatted. I began to view virtual events as an opportunity to take away one “nugget”. A nugget of information. A new potential project partner. A “what not to do” during an event. A moment of non-work related entertainment. Or maybe it would be a large nugget – a new long-term client relationship, a new skill, or a new perspective on life. I may intentionally select an event based on what I think I will get out of it, but remaining flexible on the result has allowed me to find value in most events. One specific example is I recently attended a webinar where I tweeted about the topic. That tweet generated the highest engagement in the past 28 days for my Twitter account. Shifting your mindset during this time – or any time of change – can reframe what value means.
As I think towards 2021 planning, I’ll revisit my grand plans for 2020 but with the shift in mindset. I’ll still have a budget and look for balance in topics, but the lens I’ll use to review my options will be different. You can’t always assign a dollar value to relationships and knowledge as I’ve learned during the past several months. However, I know that gathering one nugget at a time will help me build a successful, sustainable business.
And in case you’re wondering, below are some of the events I’ve attended recently.
Amplify Philly, Digital Summit, Hootsuite Events, Mailchimp Events, Philly Freelance Events, Philly Tech Week, Quorum Lunchtime Lessons & Science Center programs, Social Pulse Summit, Venture Cafe Philadelphia, Verizon Business Webinar Series, and my undergraduate and graduate school alumni events.