If you’re looking ahead to next year — or even the next few months — and starting to plan your conference and travel schedule, it’s likely you already know how many industry conferences are out there.
(And if you haven’t, we’ve rounded up a few of them for you, broken down into: alternatives, private real estate, long-only equity, and hedge fund conferences!)
But as you plan when and where you’re going to spend your valuable time and money, it’s equally important to know how to get the most out of each conference you attend, so that you can return to the office with a clear list of contacts, next steps, and goals to work through when it’s all over.
At Dakota, we’ve attended hundreds of conferences over the years, and held a few of our own along the way. We know what makes or breaks a conference, and with the launch of the new Conferences feature in Dakota Marketplace, we’ve come to know the ins and outs of them.
In this article, we’re going to outline eight best practices for investment industry conferences so you can ensure that you’re as prepared as possible for the next few months and beyond.
1. Get in touch with the conference organizer
First and foremost, when you’re looking at conferences, whether you’re a brand or a boutique, it’s important to get in touch with the conference organizer and build a relationship with them. This will help you better understand who the potential attendees are, what a sponsorship would cost, the rules around those sponsorships, as well as just building good will and rapport with the conference organizer.
Additionally, conference organizers can often provide you with an attendee list and other key information including: when to arrive, what materials to bring, who is going to be in the audience, any potential speaking opportunities, and more.
2. Start reaching out to attendees before the conference
Doing outreach before the conference itself will help ensure that you make the most of the time you have while you’re there.
A simple invitation email can read something like this: “I’ll be at [Conference Name] on [date and time], I saw you’ll also be there, would [time] work for you to meet or stop by the booth?”
This preemptive outreach provides you with a head start on getting meetings with the right people.
The same logic applies for the people you already know, too. Conferences are a great opportunity to continue building a relationship, so be sure to reach out to those already in your network as well.
Finally, setting follow up meetings with the contacts you reach out to initially will be a must once the conference. We’ll dive into exactly how to do this later.
3. Put your down time to use
If you’re a fund manager who has been to any industry conferences, you know that there is often a few hours between speakers, events, etc., that leave you with some down time. While this can be used for additional networking, it can also be a great time to slip away from the conference floor and fit a few more outside meetings into your day.
If you have the agenda in advance of the conference, start reaching out to allocators in that city, leave for an hour or two and do a meeting and then return for the duration of the conference.
At Dakota, we’re constantly talking about the importance of city scheduling: the practice of setting as many meetings as you can while you’re traveling to a certain city. This is no different if you’re traveling for a conference. Use that down time to find an additional person to meet with, making your trip even more productive.
4. Be massively prepared with your firm’s messaging and goals
When you go to a conference, there are going to be all types of attendees in the audience – clients you might have money with, high school and college interns there to learn, small and large advisors, fund managers, consultants, and more.
Because there will be such a wide and varied audience, it’s important that you arrive fully prepared with your story, strategy, and pitch completely nailed down.
Get your pitch really dialed in and ready to essentially host multiple five-minute meetings. When you’re working on your pitch, remember to focus on what matters most. What do you want these people to walk away with when they leave your booth? Distill that down into no more than a 3-5 minute conversation.
5. Have a killer follow-up system
When the conference ends, you’re going to have a million business cards and potential new contacts – be sure to get all of them into your CRM, follow up, send thank you notes, and set meetings with people who showed interest in your strategy.
Taking the contacts and getting them into your CRM to schedule a meeting within a week or two while the information is still fresh can be critical in the days and weeks after a conference. Some conferences have over a thousand attendees, with everyone drinking from a firehose of networking and information; it’s best to act while the information is as memorable as possible.
At Dakota, strong follow up is in our DNA. For more tips on exactly how to build a killer follow up system, check out our three-step guide to following up after a meeting.
6. Make sure your booth is eye-catching
If you have a table at the conference, be sure you have everything ready to go in advance of the event. This includes everything from marketing materials and collateral, fact sheets, business cards, and in some cases, a nice giveaway item.
The Dakota team likes to have golf balls on hand, but there are countless other giveaway items that might work for your firm.
Finally, make sure your table looks professional and eye-catching. This could be anything from a nice, branded table skirt, to a backdrop, and more.
7. Prepare for potential sponsorships
If a particular conference really stands out to you, you can also pursue a conference sponsorship.
We recommend working with the conference organizer to know the sponsorship amount, how it fits in with your budget, the benefits of sponsoring, and whether or not a sponsorship comes with the opportunity for a small speaking role.
If the sponsorship does allow for a speaking engagement, it’s important to know the audience ahead of time to ensure you have the right speaker for the audience in front of you.
8. Take advantage of networking time
Finally, take full advantage of the networking time the event provides! Engage with people, put yourself out there, both in break-out sessions and out on the floor itself. We always recommend that you reach out and connect with as many people as you can.
Again, when you’re networking it’s imperative that you have your messaging really locked in, as you’ll only have a few minutes with each person, and you want to make a memorable impression.
Find the right investment industry conference for your firm
In investment sales, everything starts with knowing who to call on, and focusing on what matters most. That applies to choosing the right conferences to attend, too.
Dakota Marketplace now offers a Conferences functionality, listing out 150+ investment industry conferences, with more added every day. Sort by asset class, conference type, virtual vs. in-person, and more, all designed to make sure you know the right conferences to attend, and when and where they are.
For more information on upcoming conferences, and to see the full list of upcoming conferences, we would love to offer you a free trial of Dakota Marketplace.