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  • Writer's pictureCory Cleveland

How to Get the Most Out of Conferences

Your guide to conference best practices

My name is Cory, I am the President of Creative Return and the host of The Insider’s Guide To Finance. The following are my insights and learnings from the interviews and dealings I have with talented entrepreneurs, operators and financiers. I hope you find them valuable in your endeavours.

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin, author, entrepreneur, and marketing guru

Investor marketing is integral to your story reaching investors. With conferences back in session, you’ll need to brush up on our conference best practices.

The principles of marketing are a crucial part of wooing investors, and a stellar conference strategy can make you shine.

For small-cap public companies there is fierce competition for attention and investment. How you approach your comparatively small investor base matters.

When you only have a short time to establish a rapport and articulate your narrative, you have to make the most of your chance to convert.

Here’s how to do it:

Maximizing Impact - Use a Marketing Funnel

How much is an hour of your time worth? How much is that hour worth to investors? These conference conversations can be high stakes, high-value meet-and-greets. Walking in with a wealth of background knowledge and a comprehensive plan will help you stand apart from the competition, maximize your efficiency and win a part of your target investor’s valuable headspace.

This is where marketing really starts to matter. Use the framework of a sales or marketing funnel as your lodestone:

  • Awareness

  • Consideration

  • Conversion

  • Loyalty

  • Advocacy

Prior to the conference, you're building awareness. During the conference, you're putting yourself forward for consideration. After the conference, it's all about converting general interest into a win.

Awareness: Pre-engaging Investors

Experts say it takes 5-7 impressions before people start to remember your brand. Build up awareness before attending an investor conference by educating your targets before you ask them to invest. You’re essentially generating buzz in the same way you’d create interest before a product launch, except the product is your story.

Start by researching the conference itself. Will the format include open presentations in front of a large audience? Speed dating or roundtable meetings? Or is it session-based with private meetings scattered throughout? Is the conference industry-specific or agnostic? This information will shape the entirety of your actions from preparation to pitch.

Now, start building that buzz:

  • Get a list of pre-conference PR activities from the conference organizers and analyze it for opportunities — especially if your company is a sponsor and/or will be mentioned in the media blitz.

  • Tap into your email list. Let subscribers know you'll be attending the conference and mention why it would be a valuable event for them as well. Lead with value — what’s in it for them? Can you get them in for free?

  • If possible, snag a copy of the attendee list. Contact anyone who feels like a good fit and outline your investment opportunity. This is not the sell, it’s the introduction. Strike up a conversation, ask which talks they’re looking forward to most and set up a lunch or other meetup if possible.

  • Several weeks before the conference, revisit your email list with a snappy informational piece that highlights industry opportunities rather than spotlighting your own company opp. Deliver useful information in an appealing format (think infographic), then close with a small brand blurb and a link to your company investor site.

  • Two weeks before conference launch, continue your email drip with a branded piece that refers back to the aforementioned industry opportunity.

  • Craft content your audience can actually use, like 5 Insider Questions to Ask {Industry/Business Sector} Before You Invest.

  • Draw connections between your company's unique position and the industry opportunity piece you sent out previously.

  • Once again end with a brief blurb and a link to your investor site as well as a link to your calendar should they want to schedule a time to talk.

  • One week before the conference, send out a piece that outlines your brand differentiator and reach out to those you're hoping to meet at the conference with another link to your schedule/calendar.

Consideration: During the Investor Conference

If you've done your job during the awareness stage, your time at the conference will be dedicated to funneling investors through consideration and onto conversation. Until now, you’ve been borrowing investors’ attention but now you have a chance to buy their interest. Capitalize on your momentum by developing format-specific materials and marketing collateral that speak to your audience as well as your goals:

  • A well-designed, picture-rich deck formatted two ways: as a "Presenters Deck" and a "Reader's Deck" (you'll be using the first and giving the second as a takeaway). This is a way to disseminate your story immediately while also giving leads a visual, value-packed reminder they can later access as often as they please.

  • A practice-makes-perfect elevator pitch you can whip out during "networking breaks" and as a lead-in to your pitch sessions.

  • A pen go write notes on the back of the business cards. Sounds stupid, but it could be the fork before becoming a has been and a has not. Add in personal details such as common interests to nurture connections which help build trust. This then helps turn prospects into investors.

Conversion: After the Conference

The post-conference period is where almost all companies fall off. They might zero in on one or two particularly thrilling leads, but other more tepid possibilities are left to wither. Commit to nurturing those leads instead.

When you reach the conversion stage, hot leads are looking for a reason to say yes, while warm and cold leads are looking for a reason to say no. Side note - great negotiations start with ‘No’.

To figure out who’s who and make the most of your resources, start by separating your newly expanded list of contacts according to their potential.

  • Cold and warm leads need regular check-ins. Use an email utility like MailChimp to drip useful content. You’re keeping the channels of communication open and your opportunity top of mind without being overbearing.

  • Save most of your energy for hot leads. Send information you promised when you met in person at the conference or, more ideally, set up a time to talk details one-on-one.

  • Add prospects to your email list so they’ll receive your news and updates. Consider including an opt-in link for your regular newsletter, but be aware of the privacy laws in your country and don’t bombard people with unsolicited communication.

  • Pick up the phone and touch base with everyone you met at the conference. Even those who aren’t an immediate fit could introduce or recommend you to their network, and those contacts may be more receptive thanks to the introduction of an intermediary.

Each one of those steps becomes one of the 5-7 impressions that help foster brand recognition. The smallest touch — a brief email, a two-minute follow-up phone call or even a text — could have major impact. That’s what marketing is all about.

Whether you're creating an email awareness campaign, making the most of a five-minute breakout session, leading a talk or dispatching your team to spread your message across the exhibit floor, finding actionable ways to showcase your story is how you’ll:

  • Unite your staff

  • Ensure your pitch is memorable

  • Turn prospects into investors

Conferences are back! Tick all the boxes on the checklist above or hand it off to someone who can. Your story is your ticket to standing out in the crowd and boosting your company’s share value. It’s time to be heard.

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