Continuing to educate employees about innovation and best practices in your industry, and connecting with others in the ecommerce space, are integral to ensuring your business’s long-term success. One great way to do that? Attend one of the many ecommerce or industry conferences put on every year. But with so many options for conferences on so many different topics, it can be difficult to narrow down which conferences you should attend - much less understand how to get the most out of them. We put together this guide to conference attendance for ecommerce retailers to help you make the most out of the conferences you choose for your team.
Choose which conferences to attend
Finding worthwhile conferences can be tough, but we’re here to help. Use these tips to narrow down your list and find the right conferences:
Stay within your budget
Determine how much you’re willing to spend on conferences. If it’s not local, consider that you’ll also have travel expenses, lodging and meals to add on to the cost of attending. Plus, if you want to have a booth at a conference versus simply attending the sessions, that will be an additional cost. Just because a conference is widely known and attended doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best fit for your team (remember: big events often mean a big price tag).
Learn from your experiences
Evaluate the conferences you’ve attended in the past. Did they provide valuable insights? Did you make helpful connections? Were the things you learned beneficial for your business? Was the conference worthwhile overall? If you had a positive experience, consider going back (and using this knowledge to find similar conferences). If not, spend your time and money elsewhere.
Set a goal
Are you hoping to learn more about your industry? Increasing brand awareness for your business? Just network with others in your field? Knowing what you want to get out of a conference can help you choose the right one.
Who’s going to be there?
If a conference you’re considering has an attendee list (or even previous attendee lists), scour it. Do you see the names of peers you respect? Are representatives from businesses that you hope to meet going? If not, you may want to keep searching. If there isn’t an attendee list, peruse hashtags on social media to see if you can learn more about who will be there.
See who’s talking
It’s important to check out both the speakers as well as the conference’s central purpose. Is the theme in line with your business goals? Will the lineup deliver insights relevant to your business? If you’re having trouble determining these things, a conference may not be the right fit.
Read the reviews
The last thing on your checklist? Check out the reviews of people who have attended the conference in the past. Marketing efforts for the event may make it seem great, but reviews from previous attendees can give you a more realistic picture.
Get the most bang for your buck
Once you’re at the conference, how can you be sure you’re getting your money’s worth - and bringing actionable insights (or contacts) back to your business?
Know the schedule
Review the agenda to Also be on the lookout for pre- and post-conference sessions - like networking events, happy hours or dinners - to maximize your time there.
Come equipped with plenty of supplies – such as laptop and phone chargers, a huge stack of business cards and any other promotional materials that could be helpful if you find yourself making an unexpected sales pitch. You might end up making connections that could help further your business, so preparation is key.
If you’re going with others from your team, split up to cover as many sessions as possible. You can have a meeting when you’re back in the office to share your learnings. If you’re attending by yourself, figure out which sessions are critical for you to attend and which ones you can skip - and create an itinerary complete with how much time you want to spend at each session.
Don’t focus only on big brands
Ecommerce conferences usually have a healthy mix of startups, medium-sized businesses and well-known retailers participating. Companies of all sizes can have valuable insights, so don’t focus only on the household brands and big names. Look for companies who have stories like yours - they might be especially helpful to connect with.
Make sure to mingle
Network with as many people as possible, keep the conversation going during and after the conference using social media – don’t forget to use the appropriate hashtags! – and send follow-up emails to the people you meet to establish connections.
Use what you learned
Attending a conference should be an enjoyable experience - one from which you leave with fresh ideas, new contacts and a renewed sense of purpose and possibility. Make sure to give yourself time when you return to reflect on your learnings, think about how they could impact your business and start implementing them - before you dive back into your daily grind. If you had a great experience, bookmark the conference for next year. And whether you enjoyed it or not, make sure to leave a review to help others decide on attending in the future. Planning to attend a conference in 2019? Check out this 2019 ecommerce conference calendar.