Conferences are rebounding back since the 2008 recession, and they are more vibrant than ever now because they are chocked full of attendees yearning for more knowledge.  But the overall conference experience has shifted as well to not just be a learning location but to also be an experience. In fact a session at the 2018 National Speakers Association Winter Conference in Baltimore, which I attended, was a panel of experienced meeting planners.  During this session they talked specifically about speakers engaging with the audience, and how they are building conferences and meetings to be memorable experiences and they want the speaker to be part of that.

So how does that pertain to word of mouth referrals?  Well it translates into the fact that conference are a great place to start the process of getting more referrals.  Here are 3 ways you can use a conference for word of mouth referrals

  1. Colleagues are contacts too! – Conferences are full of people that are colleagues in most cases.  But if you have heard me speak about word of mouth referrals before, you might notice a slight difference in wording that I use.  I talk a lot about building relationships with your contacts…not clients. There’s a big difference in those 2 words. Contacts are people you meet, ones you can choose from to establish deeper, more meaningful connection with. Clients are people that buy from you and are included in the group of contacts.  Clients are a subset of contacts. Moreover, conferences are full of contacts. People that really get your industry, and can refer you. In the speaking world, referrals do in fact come from others speakers. I also so this is the website agency world a lot too. Just because you are in an industry doesn’t mean you can’t get referrals from others in the industry. In fact, it’s very common that you would get referrals, primarily because you and the person referring you likely have different target markets or niches within the industry!  It makes perfect sense to build your contact database from relationships you establish at a conference!
  2. Conference attendees are a great resource! – Ask other attendees questions that directly result in new ideas for how you can build or increase your personal care package.  Here are a few questions you can ask:
    1. “How do you find ways to over deliver to your their clients?”
    2. “How do you stay in touch with your clients and contacts?”
    3. “How often to you connect with your contacts?”
    4. “What systems or software do you use to remember to stay in touch?”
    5. “Do you give any specialized gifts to your clients or contacts?”
  3. Conference attendees get referred too! – So find out who refers them the most.  What type of industry or other business owners refers them on a regular basis. You may find a hidden nugget in this conversation and realize that you have an untapped market of contacts that you just never thought about and that someone else has already figured out.  Be sure to get contact information for this attendee as you may be able to follow up and have mutually beneficial strategy sessions to talk about focusing on that industry or market.

Remember that conferences are about education and experience, but they are very much about networking and learning from other attendees too, which is why meeting planners build in that time into the schedule as well!