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Conferences are among the most important marketing avenues for my consultancy, and I’m not alone. The global live event industry (which includes live sports and concerts, corporate events, and conference and exhibitions) surpassed $650 billion last year and is projected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2032.

Of course, it’s worth mentioning that conferences aren’t guaranteed success. E3 was once the most important annual video game event, but it struggled to remain relevant after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and inevitably shut down permanently in December. Although sad, it’s an anomaly in a recovering industry–events like CES, SXSW and ComicCon bounced back and continue to prove their value for major brands and professionals alike.

Major players like Apple, Amazon and Coca-Cola have robust live event strategies, so clearly, the return on investment is there for planners, buyers and exhibitors from the top brands in the world.

The average trade-show budget for exhibitors was $1.4 million last year, an increase even from pre-pandemic levels. Add-ons like panel and stage participation, awards and strategic advertising throughout the event increase costs. However, calculating the ROI of these expenses can get complicated.

Related: How to Network at Events Like a Pro and Watch Your Startup Soar

Through working countless events and putting many hours behind the upsides and even pitfalls, here are five tips to maximize your ROI at events.

1. Lean into your branding

Branding is perhaps the most important factor for attending, sponsoring or exhibiting at a major event. In fact, research found conferences can increase brand recognition by up to 76%, although 85% of exhibitors say their primary reason for attending is to generate leads and sales (covered in the next point).

To maximize this benefit, be sure everything you bring with you to the show improves your branding down to every detail. This includes what your team wears to the event, any merch you plan to hand out, marketing materials, brochures, clipboards and pens used, and more. These events fly by fast, with a lot going on at once, and it’s important to make a lasting impression quickly for the best possible results.

2. Nail a clear call to action

As mentioned above, sales leads are the lifeblood of any business, and conferences can make or break your company. That’s why it’s necessary to have a clear call to action in all of your branded materials. If you forge a strong connection with a potential prospect, you need to close the sale before they talk to someone else and forget.

Conferences last from a couple of days to a week, and you’ll meet hundreds or even thousands of potential prospects in that time. You should have a highly polished elevator pitch (30 to 60 seconds) that easily highlights the selling points of your business, and it needs to end with a simple and intuitive CTA to ensure you complete the necessary sales to guarantee an ROI.

And following up a week or two after the event is equally important in closing the deal.

Related: 5 Ways to Make the Most Out of an Industry Conference

3. Leverage satellite events

Everyone assumes the business happens on the trade floor, but little do they know the handshakes happen in intimate settings. Every conference has satellite events, and these typically happen at the various venues surrounding the main event venue. Decision-makers often attend these get-togethers to network, and these side events are where it’s at.

These side events are also a great way to benefit without a ticket to the main event. It’s not unusual for aspiring entrepreneurs to lurk outside the main convention to learn more about side events happening after hours and stake those out to meet potential investors and clients. A handshake deal after hours can make the difference between a win and a loss at the event.

4. Tag teaming makes the dream work

Organization is the best way to ensure success, and conferences are best handled with a team of three or more people. Throughout the event, the exhibition floor remains active, and there are plenty of conferences and panel discussions happening simultaneously. It’s impossible to be everywhere at once unless you have a team willing to divide and conquer.

Set up a time and place to meet at the end of the day, and keep two-way radios on hand, as event Wi-Fi can be spotty. These small radios have about a six-mile radius, which is more than enough to keep you in contact throughout any major event. Staying in contact with each other ensures you maximize potential opportunities throughout the event without doubling up on each other’s efforts.

Related: 5 Tips to Networking at Conferences as an Introvert

5. Have fun!

Above all else, it’s important to have fun when attending conferences. Although it’s a business trip, these events can be a fun place to meet up with people you’ve only worked with virtually. Getting to know other people and learning new things can help you build your community, even if you don’t close the deal.

Conclusion

Conferences are a cornerstone of business, and even at the height of pandemic lockdowns, live virtual events came through. If you’re looking for a way to elevate your business to the next level, attending a live conference or conference can be the way to go.

It’s not guaranteed, though–these events are expensive, with tickets that can cost thousands of dollars and exhibits and sponsorships that easily cost seven to eight figures. Without careful planning, it’s easy to waste money without any tangible ROI. Some people even find success offsite without ever buying a ticket to the main event.

Be sure you have a solid plan and execute on it for the best possible outcome. If you do it right, you can easily land the deal that makes up for the cost of the event and creates sustainable long-term success for your business.

This article is from Entrepreneur.com

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