Preparation can make all the difference in your conference experience
Ready to put down your snow shovel and enjoy a few days working in sunny Orlando and Las Vegas? As the veterinary profession’s biggest conferences begin, you need to plan more than what to pack. Here are tips on getting powerful results from your conference experiences:
Ask customers if they will attend conferences
Don’t wait until you bump into key customers in the exhibit hall to invite them to dinner. Your last-minute invitation could get turned down. Schedule meetings and dinners now, weeks before conferences begin. Text customers on the day of meetings with reminders of the time and booth location, including helpful directions. Guaranteed meetings will result in sales.
Make dinner reservations in advance
The best restaurants fill up fast. You don’t want to invite a customer to dinner and then only can secure a reservation after 9 p.m. If you plan to have dinners each evening of the conference, pick your favorite restaurants weeks in advance and book tables during prime dinner hours of 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. You’ll get first choice of your favorite venues and can make special requests for private meeting rooms or tables with views. Even if you don’t know who you’ll invite to dinner on Monday night, you’ve got a table for four ready. You can cancel reservation if plans change.
Pack double the amount of business cards
Networking is a prime activity of conferences. Running out of business cards shows you’re unprepared. Tuck business cards inside the pocket of your name badge holder so they’re within reach as you talk with attendees. Keep extra cards stashed in your wallet, purse, backpack or briefcase. Conference activities mean you’ll be meeting prospects everywhere – in the hotel’s gym, elevator, lounge, classrooms, coffee stations, and exhibit hall. Carry business cards everywhere you go.
Plan unexpected experiences
You’ve confirmed that a veterinarian will attend the conference with her practice manager and lead technician. Book pedicures at the hotel spa before or after CE sessions. You’ll treat yourself while enjoying an hour of relaxing, uninterrupted conversations with the team. Conferences are in cities where spas and entertainment are abundant. Pick activities that will create memories beyond the conference.
Create a follow-up list daily
You’ll meet hundreds of prospective and existing customers at conferences. Take notes after each conversation, including follow-up items. At the end of each conference day, add the to-do list to your calendar so you can provide timely follow up and generate post-conference sales. Debriefing daily will keep you focused on top priorities when you return home.
Set follow-up appointments during the conference
After talking with a prospect in your territory, he wants you to demonstrate the equipment at his hospital after the conference. His doctors meet on the third Wednesday of each month during lunch. At the conference, set the date for you to participate in the next doctors’ meeting so you can get a prompt buying decision.
As a rule of thumb, start onsite conference plans about the same time that you buy your plane ticket – 30 days in advance. When you arrive at the convention, you’ll already have more than half of your schedule filled and can be confident that you’ll get a good return on your investment of time and dollars for exhibiting.
Wendy S. Myers owns Communication Solutions for Veterinarians in Castle Pines, Colo. She helps teams improve client service, communication skills and compliance through consulting, seminars and monthly CE credit webinars. Wendy is a certified veterinary journalist and author of 101 Communication Skills for Veterinary Teams. Her “Callers into New Clients Course” teaches receptionists how to turn price shoppers into new clients. You can reach her at email@example.com or www.csvets.com.