Developing a Winning Conference Participation Strategy

Developing a Winning Conference Participation Strategy

by Bridget Mayer, Director of Business Development at GiveCentralNow that the seasons have officially changed, many of us have started to enjoy fall's

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by Bridget Mayer, Director of Business Development at GiveCentralNow that the seasons have officially changed, many of us have started to enjoy fall’s perennial offerings, including cooler temperatures, beautiful changing leaf colors and of course, a caramel apple or two.Fall also ushers in a very busy time of year for more than just pumpkin patches. For nonprofit and religious administration managers, along with many leaders at for-profit businesses, the start of autumn marks the start of the busy conference season. Many of us will travel near and far to attend annual gatherings over the next several months, juggling the responsibilities of our day jobs with the inherent craziness of conference participation.Developing a winning conference participation strategy is key to ensuring you take full advantage of all the conference’s benefits. Here at GiveCentral, we’ve spent last week connecting with industry colleagues new and old at the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference (DFMC) and are busy preparing for National Catholic Development Conference (NCDC) which starts October 4th.Since we’re in the thick of it, we wanted to share some advice on developing a winning conference strategy to help you make the most out of your conference participation:Identify your goals before you arrive You need to choose the conferences that will give you and your business the best ROI in terms of your goals. It’s important to come prepared with established participation goals and that your any participants from your organization understand these goals.

What do you want to get out of the conference? How many leads/connections are you looking to generate? Are you focusing on promotion/branding or do you have a product to demo?

You can have more than one goal, of course, but the point is that you need to be clear about what your participation in the conference is going to achieve. Determine what your ROI would be—if one new customer helps you justify you being at the event, then focus on connecting with as many participants as possible in order to unearth and connect with that customer.For example, many of the attendees at DFMC are finance and accounting-focused professionals who are focused on learning how to best cut down the costs associated with managing their organization’s capital campaigns. We looked to connect with the attendees to inform them about how, without breaking the bank, our electronic giving systems allows users to get comprehensive donor functionality to easily:

  • Manage donor relations
  • Access donation activity
  • Run reports/managing donor accounts
  • Send and manage donor communications

In the booth, we conducted live demonstrations of our GiveCentral Go technology, our easy-to-use card reader for mobile devices, which is perfect for off-site donor events. In addition, for those that received our pre-conference email, made a donation to Catholic Relief Services and visited our booth, we gladly matched their gift right there in the booth using GiveCentral Go!

GiveCentral's tradeshow booth before the opening of NCDC 2013

Our booth at NCDC 2013 – pardon our old tagline!

For the upcoming NCDC, our focus will be to connect development directors whose priorities differ from a CFO. Tending to be the end users and executors of the ins and outs of giving programs, their goals are zoned in on how they can best save time with giving logistics and enhance their programs—both of which are right up GiveCentral’s alley!Carve out time to build connectionsBuilding personal relationships are a key benefit of conference participation. Conferences are ripe for connecting with potential customers, but it’s also a time to build on the relationships you already have. If you know people that you want to reconnect with or get to know better who will be attending—clients, vendors, friends-of-friends—reach out a few weeks before the conference to set up a time to meet for coffee or a meal while you’re at the event.That’s what we did for DFMC. These one-on-one conversations allow us the opportunity to understand donor needs and to talk about how GiveCentral has worked with hundreds of church and diocesan offices as well many non-profit organizations to help them meeting that challenge via electronic giving.Friendly follow-upRemember that the conference doesn’t end with the closing session. In fact, in most cases this is when the important relationship building and sales work starts. You need to keep your business at the front of your prospects’ minds by staying in touch after the event. This increases the chance of converting your leads into sales.Following DFMC, we’ll be following up with all the great connections we made via personal emails, phone call and/or face-to-face meetings. We’ll also be looking to share a copy of our upcoming survey GiveCentral: 2015 Predictions for Giving which is set to launch in early October. Our goal with the survey is to better understanding donor giving preferences and the role technology increasingly plays in non-profit donations. Once launched, the survey will be accessible from our home page at www.givecentral.org.Pay it forwardYou gained a lot of new information, inspiration and contacts at the conference, now it’s time to share the knowledge with fellow colleagues, prospects and clients. For example, send clients and prospects, especially if they couldn’t make the conference, links to session videos or presentations you thought were particularly valuable. This knowledge share is a great value-add to any relationship.No matter what your fall schedule has in store for you, we hope this advice on developing a winning conference participation strategy proves valuable. And if you’re headed to NCDC, we look forward to seeing you!

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