Many of us are at the peak of conference season. Though it makes for a packed calendar, I love this time of year because I get to reconnect with friends and colleagues and build new relationships. I’m also a bit of a foodie and traveling gives me a chance to try lots of different restaurants. Conferences, friends, and food make a great combination.
Like many of you, when I go to an unfamiliar city I rely heavily on my trusty Yelp app to pick a place to eat. My strategy is to find a restaurant that has lots of reviews and at least 4 out of 5 stars. If I’m watching my budget I look at the number of dollar signs, which is an indication of how pricey my meal will be. I also dig into at least a few of the reviews to get a good sense of what to expect. This method relies on quantitative and qualitative data to inform my restaurant choice. I don’t rely on one thing, but many to decide.
In some ways, deciding if a conference has been a success is a lot like picking a good restaurant. We use many metrics, not just one. One thing that is relatively common at conferences, especially for exhibitors, is to fixate on foot traffic. It’s certainly true that having people on the show floor interacting with vendors, suppliers, and other business partners is important, but this ignores so much more that may go into building or maintaining a relationship with a client. It also suggests to me that the exhibitor who relies only on foot traffic may be missing many other opportunities to grow their business by participating in educational sessions or roundtable talk and, informally networking between sessions, at meals, or after the show floor is closed for the day. Simply put, we need to think much more broadly about what contributes to success than counting the number of people who come to our booth.
One vendor at IPI’s most recent conference in Las Vegas made this point clear to me. He said, the conference had been very successful for his company, but that “business isn’t conducted just on the show floor. It happens everywhere.”
Thankfully we now have tools like Yelp to guide us to great places to eat. These apps are reliable because they don’t just focus on one thing but many as predictors of success—a great meal in the case of choosing a restaurant. It’s time for us to expand this idea to our conferences where many things—not just one—contribute to a great show and productive business opportunities.
Have a great conference season and if you find exceptional restaurants along the way, be certain to write a review. I’ll be sure to read it.