Here’s the scene: you’re back in the office after spending a few days hobnobbing with fellow marketers at an industry conference.
You’re fatigued, stressed and oh-so-very behind on your work, but damn it, you came back with so much!
Advice from Gary V tailored just for you (sort of–there were lots of people in the room).
You feel like a fresh grad again; so full of potential and optimism that you want to storm into the CEO’s office and go, “this is how things are going to work from here on out.”
Fast forward a month later.
You’re back at your desk. The same one you’ve been at for three years, with the same stale coffee and cutesy knick knacks, only this time there is a lanyard from the conference hanging from a peg. One of the many things you brought back from that week, but the only one that you managed to hang on to.
No more zeal. No more ideas. No more fire.
You’ve just been slapped with the Post-Conference Reality Check (PCRC).
There are a number of ways PCRC could manifest. The speaker’s advice didn’t match your market. Your promising contacts ghosted you. Your revolutionary proposals fell on deaf ears.
You tried to move the mountain, but couldn’t overcome the inertia. You’re stuck in the status quo. Your ideas are just piled by the wayside, forgotten.
Is it a rotten feeling? Heck yes.
Is it avoidable? Absolutely.
You just need to be smart about how you approach it.
Screen Your Speakers
Most conferences have so many sessions it’s impossible to attend them all. I used to choose on the basis of which had the most interesting or relatable title. But as the saying goes, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Judge it by the author, instead.
Look at the speaker closely. Not their name recognition–it’s a big industry and it’s impossible to know everybody–but their specialization and work history.
For example, I attended a “Content that Rocked the Revenue Stream” session that had sounded like a must-watch for a B2B content marketer like myself. But it was taught by an ad agency Creative Director. He showed interesting videos and IG stories, but I couldn’t use any of it.
On the other hand, the session with the bland-as-beige title “Strategic Insights from Three-Point Data Analysis” actually changed the way I leveraged data-driven content strategies. It was run by a Content Director with a data science background, and she was able to successfully make use of this previous experience in her marketing role.
Most (if not all) speakers will have a LinkedIn profile. Take the time to look them up and visit their company websites when you plan your conference agenda. That way, there’s less risk of you coming back to the office with unusable information.
Don’t Gush to Co-workers
It’s okay for you to be on cloud nine after the conference. In fact, that’s what conferences want you to feel.
What’s not okay is forcing that enthusiasm down other people’s throats. You might think you’re just telling people about your week, but what other people are hearing is “I just had a company-paid vacation while you were stuck here.”
This is especially true for events like INBOUND and DreamForce, where they put ridiculous amounts of money behind entertainment. I mean come on: DreamForce has a frickin’ party guide.
That’s a quick way of building up resentment towards your post-conference revelations.
Save your gushing for social media. When people ask, assume they’re asking out of politeness and respond accordingly. Wait for them to show genuine interest before you start bringing out the really juicy anecdotes.
It’s okay to show excitement when you talk to your manager about the trip, but express more enthusiasm for how the company would be able to benefit from what you learned. The possibilities will infect your boss with your energy, which you’ll then be able to channel into support for whatever new initiatives you want to introduce.
Don’t Rock the Boat (Yet)
Don’t be that person who runs into the marketing room yelling “Stop the presses! Stop the presses!”
Abrupt change will almost always be met by strong resistance. They don’t even need a reason to object. People will resist change just because they can.
Besides, you don’t want to rip up your old workflow and introduce sweeping changes, only to discover your brilliant idea doesn’t work as well as you thought it would. Might be a little hard to backtrack at that point.
Set up small-scale experiments instead. Change your keywords for a single campaign. Create a new email subject line for a small segment of your users. A/B test a single page on your site. Get a trial version of some new software and ask one or two of your team members to test it.
Run these experiments for a while (gathering as much hard data as you can) and compare them to your status quo. Then you can approach management with a stronger case for change.
Set Goals and KPIs
What are you trying to accomplish at the conference?
Yes, you’re only attending and not exhibiting, but the question still applies. You can’t just attend “for the lulz” when the company is speding thousands of dollars on a single ticket, plus food and loding and transportation.
Before you even click “buy,” get your list of conference goals together. This list could include:
- burning questions to answer,
- specific people you want to meet,
- contacts from a particular industry,
- exhibitors to visit,
- bars to hit (okay, maybe not that last).
The point is, having these goals in hand will help you to stay focused and not get distracted by all the glitz and glam. You’ll be able to pick sessions intelligently and isolate the people you want to meet the most.
Then, when your manager asks, you’ll be able to tell him just how fruitful your conference stay really was.
The post-conference reality check will only be a problem if you let it. Plan your trip properly, set expectations, and act in line with your goals, and you’ll come back to establish a new reality, and not falling victim to the status quo.
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