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4 Keys to Conference & Trade Show Outreach to Maximize ROI

Updated: Jan 30

Big industry conference or trade show coming up? Here are four ways to get the most out of it.

Industry conferences and trade shows present invaluable opportunities for networking, expanding your professional circle, and generating awareness for your business. However, many attendees miss the chance to make a lasting impact by skipping before and after event outreach. According to a survey by CEIR, 88% of conference attendees have buying authority, which means they can make purchasing decisions for their organizations. With direct contact with decision-makers, you should be taking advantage of outbound campaigns to help open the door for better conversations at the event. I'm sharing four key strategies to master sales outreach at industry conferences that we use with our clients. Let's dive in!

1. Verified Data

Before you can do anything, it’s vital that sales and marketing teams have verified prospect data. Clean data leads to a higher delivery rate, open rate and response rate. If you aren’t using a reputable source or double-checking info, emails can end up in spam or bouncing. This actually hurts your website’s SEO since you are often using the same domain URL.

I recommend using a tool like before sending any messages to protect yourself. Be wary of anyone trying to sell you an email list without them being able to share how they keep data clean and relevant. When using a third-party, you also need a partner that is going to dig into the specifics of your target audience. When prospecting, don’t just get names and emails. Gather other relevant information like LinkedIn profiles, office location or tech stack. All of this lets you tweak your messages to the conference details and stand out from your competitors.

For conference outreach, start by scraping the speaker lineup and attendee list if you have access. Use conference websites, apps and social media to find the names and info you need. From there, build a list of the top-tier people you want to target. You won’t be able to reach out to everyone - nor should you. Keep it aligned with your ideal customer.

2. Pre-Event Outreach

While it’s not groundbreaking, many attendees skip sending an email to speakers and attendees ahead of the event. Whether not knowing how to pull emails, finding the time or feeling at a loss for what to say, it can seem easier not to do it. But by sending a simple note before you meet people, you increase the chances of chatting with them in person and increasing company awareness.

With your verified list, send speakers personalized messages expressing your admiration for their work and excitement about their participation in the conference. Be genuine and avoid sounding overly promotional. For attendees, keep it super simple by mentioning you’ll both be there, any mutual connections or interests you have, and an easy call to action. Keep in mind, not everyone will actually attend, so format the message in a way that allows for continued conversation even if they won’t be there.

Most people won’t respond to a meeting request in that first message. But if you get some engagement or response, you can follow up by requesting a brief meet-up. Be clear about what you want to talk with them about, and do your research beforehand to keep the conversation relevant to their business. Sometimes, simply asking if a prospect is attending the conference shows your relevance and will increase responses. If you have a sizable social media following or are going with multiple colleagues and peers, consider organizing meet-ups or social gatherings during the conference. These informal events can provide an excellent networking platform and foster connections in a relaxed setting. Remember to keep the invite list strategic and comfortable for everyone to attend

3. The Social Media Connection

There is a lot of online buzz ahead of conferences to take advantage of. LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and even Facebook can be great platforms to try and build familiarity ahead of the event. Start by searching the official event hashtag to find others who have registered, and even post it yourself to see if anyone in your network is attending.

Look for LinkedIn or Facebook groups dedicated to the conference or topics related to your company’s niche. Odds are, there will be many attendees in the groups you’re already part of! Participate in discussions, share insights if you’ve attended before and connect with other members. These groups can serve as an excellent platform to exchange ideas and have some familiar faces before the conference begins.

If you’ve done sales outreach before, you know it takes more than one touchpoint for someone to engage or remember you. Instead of only using email, look for other places to do light outreach with top-tier speakers and prospects by commenting and liking their posts. Odds are, their inboxes are flooded with messages, social media can help you stand out. Remember to keep it casual and valuable - you don’t want to hit the sales too hard before meeting anyone in person.

4. The Perfect Follow Up

Every person likes to feel heard. Nailing the perfect post-conference message means being a great listener and note-taker during the conference. I made the mistake of thinking I'll remember every detail of my conversation, and then when I went to write a note three days later, I couldn't even remember the city we were in. Take. Notes. Nowadays, many conferences have quality apps where you can jot down info about specific attendees, but handwritten or just on your phone also works.

Your message should be sincere and recall one or two personal anecdotes you learned about the person or spoke about. Make it easy for them to remember you. For example, use reminders like "It was great to sit next to you at the young entrepreneur's panel. I enjoyed chatting afterward about their advice for managing client payments. I took your advice and looked into Wave." Be genuine about it! When you follow up with a sales pitch or meeting request, people are much more open to someone who feels like a warm connection.

For speakers, I recommend sending a LinkedIn request. Let them know you heard them present and congratulate them on a job well done. Throw in a specific talking point that resonated with you. It shows you were actually in attendance and listening and flattery will increase the chances of them hitting accept and starting a conversation with you.

Keep in mind the timing of your follow-up. If you promised a same-day message, stick to your word. Send your follow-up two business days later. That way, you give people time to catch up on their full inboxes, but it's not long before they forget about you. And remember that some people need an extra nudge; it's okay to send more than one follow-up.

Engaging with speakers, influencers, and fellow attendees before the conference can significantly enhance your networking efforts and open doors to valuable opportunities. Trust me—it’s worth your time, investment and effort. Let me know what tips I missed. Happy outreaching!

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