The past two years, there’s been a lot of talk about the return to “normal” or, at the very least, what’s come to be referred to as the “new normal.” Well, when it comes to education conferences, we may be there!
However, with the majority of education conferences back to being “live” events, companies are faced with the challenge of reintroducing themselves to potential customers in a face-to-face environment. This is made even more challenging by the fact that many of the large conferences, such as ISTE and ALA, are hosting “hybrid” conferences with both and online and live options and, frankly, that model may be here to stay.
It’s a little bit like going to a high school or college reunion. Will they remember me? Will they know what I do? Will they know how things have changed for us over the past few years? And let’s face it, while we might be nostalgically inclined to go back to doing things the way we did in 2019, why would we just walk away from everything we learned – sometimes the hard way – over the past few years? Here are tips for making that reintroduction engaging and successful:
- Maintain Some Familiarity. While you might be inclined to design a whole new exhibit and even rebrand your company when you start attending face-to-face conferences again, it is important to ensure that you look familiar to the educators that you want to engage with. If you’re developing a beautiful new booth to attract them on the exhibit floor, you might want to maintain your legacy color palette if it is particularly linked to your company. If you have created a new logo and brand, perhaps consider including some elements that remind attendees of who you are and what you offer.
- Build on Learnings. If you had a virtual presence at a conference over the past two years, consider building on that. You invested in that strategy and, if it was successful, then optimize your creative ideas for your live presence moving forward. Maybe you had an online game that attendees played to learn more about your product or you hosted a virtual cocktail party. Think about ways to extend those marketing strategies to a face-to-face conference or, if you are participating in a hybrid conference, how you can connect online to live.
- Consider Comfort-Level. While it is great that we are going to be back together face-to-face, remember that COVID-19 is still a reality and some attendees may have a certain level of anxiety about attending. Create an exhibit environment that takes this into consideration by ensuring that your tables aren’t too close together and spacing out the chairs for informational sessions that you might be hosting. For a while at least, the days of “packing people in” may be gone. Also, while the conference you are at may not have a mask requirement, perhaps have some available in your booth in case a potential customer is wearing one so that the salesperson that they are talking to can respectfully wear one during the conversation. Similarly, if you are hosting a live reception or dinner, think about the environment for that event as well and if attendees will be comfortable with the spacing and things like crowd size.
- Communicate. Be sure to communicate with conference attendees before and after the conference so that they are aware of your presence and what you have planned. While your response to this tip, may be, “well, of course,” it is more critical than ever before because educators will be curious if you will have a live, virtual or hybrid presence at a conference they are attending. They may be more inclined to visit your booth or attend your reception if they know that you will be taking individual comfort levels around masks and other COVID-19 protocols into consideration. And, most importantly, they should know that you will be there and excited to welcome them and share the exciting things that your company is offering.
While it may seem like we are entering a whole new world, it doesn’t mean that our tried and true conference marketing best practices don’t still apply. Just remember to build on what you have learned, especially over the past two years. As you plan your 2022-2023 conference and trade show strategies, MDR is here to help ensure you maximize your investment and optimize your leads. Connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.