Learn how attending live business conferences, workshops, retreats, and events can improve your skills, grow your business, and create opportunities.
Autumn is always a crazy time of year. When summer ends and kids go back to school, the vast majority of people get back to work with a focus on getting specific things done before the end of the year. Business is always booming in the fall, and this year it was even crazier than normal because of all the live events I attended or spoke at.
I love live events.
As long as I have been freelancing, and throughout the life of my creative agency, I have always invested in business conferences, events, seminars, retreats, and workshops — many of which required a plane ride and hotel stay.
Attending live events provides critical exposure to new ideas and technologies, fresh perspectives, game-changing strategies, and different ways of doing things that I need to keep learning, growing, and improving. It also provides incredibly valuable opportunities to meet new people, build new relationships, and connect on a deeper level with people already in my network.
In addition to a weekend getaway in Las Vegas, a wedding, a music festival, a breast cancer walk, several concerts, and a road trip through Death Valley, this fall I:
- Traveled to Austin to speak about freelancing at the Freelance Conference
- Was lead organizer for WordCamp Sacramento and welcomed 500 people to the the Sacramento Convention Center
- Spoke at the International Food Blogger Conference on SEO for Food Bloggers
- Was a host at CaboPress, a business mastermind event held by my friend Chris Lema
- Co-hosted the monthly Sacramento WordPress Meetup
- Lead a two hour workshop on branding at WordCamp Seattle
- Attended WordCamp US in Nashville and got to relax as an attendee
The Benefit Of Live Events
Live events have been the catalyst for many amazing opportunities, several of my most treasured friendships, a steady stream of new business, and long-term brand growth. While social media, membership sites, and other digital communities facilitate online connections, there is nothing quite like having a shared experience with someone face-to-face, in real life, in an intimate setting.
Sitting down with another person for a meal or cocktails, grabbing a quiet moment in the hallway for a personal conversation, or sharing in a fun memory solidifies connections and accelerates a deepening of the relationship.
When deciding what events I will attend, participate in, or speak at, I look for ones that will inspire both personal and professional growth. When attending business events, I want to:
- Learn valuable information, tips, tactics, and strategies that will help me grow my brand and business.
- Discover software, tools, and resources to improve efficiency, uplevel my work, and streamline business operations.
- Receive referrals and recommendations to talented service providers, vendors, partners, and experts.
- Meet new people, make new friends, connect with new partners, and spend time with those I already know.
- Share whatever knowledge I can with those I meet to “pay it forward” and help them achieve a goal.
The ROI Of Live Events
There are two things you must understand about the return on investment (ROI) for events:
1. You Get Out Of An Event What You Want
If show up believing you already know everything, your mind won’t be open to learning much. Likewise, if you walk into a session believing you’re already an expert, you may miss out on an opportunity to learn something new.
Every time I attend an event, I do it with high expectations and no attachments.
I expect to have an awesome experience but am not tied to that experience looking any certain way. With this approach, I remain open to whatever the event brings my way.
- I attend sessions I know nothing about to expand my knowledge base — and while I may not leave an expert, I leave knowing something I didn’t before.
- I attend sessions about the exact same things I teach and speak about to see how other people teach it and talk about it. This helps me make small tweaks and adjustments to improve my talks and trainings.
- I attend sessions on topics most would already consider me an expert in, and every time, without fail, I learn something new or gain a fresh perspective that helps me better serve my clients and those in my programs.
- I make an effort to introduce myself to new people in the hallways, at lunch, before or after a session, or at the after party.
2. You Get Out Of An Event What You Put Into It
If you go to an event, but sit behind your computer the entire time, spend half the event on your phone, stand off to the side alone, skip the party, skip sessions to work in your room, or ditch out on the meals, you’re sabotaging your own experience and drastically limiting opportunities to meet new people, make new connections, and create new opportunities.
With that said, sometimes program agendas and event schedules leave me scratching my head. Sometimes there just isn’t a session that sounds interesting or fits my business. When that happens I shift my approach and mindset:
- I make an extra effort to introduce myself to sponsors and other attendees in the hallways, at lunch, around the coffee and snack tables, or at the party.
- I spend more time chatting with friends in the hallway track to deepen and strengthen those relationships.
- I still go to sessions, but focus on the time immediately before and after to introduce myself and chat up those sitting next to me, around me, or at my table.
All of the events I attended this fall resulted in new connections and relationships, new partnerships, new speaking opportunities, and new business.
Cost Of Live Event Attendance
There are plenty of expenses associated with attending business events. Many of my friends are fortunate enough to have their employers cover all of the costs to attend events. As the owner of my company, I don’t have that luxury. Every year, I set and work within an established event budget. Luckily, attending live events doesn’t always mean a plane ride, a hotel stay, and an expensive event ticket.
Yes, masterminds in exotic locations, retreats in Lake Tahoe, micro-conferences in Cabo San Lucas, and business events around the country are always an amazing experience. But it’s important to remember that impactful live events happen in your own backyard, in your own city, or in a city nearby too.
Local networking events, meetups, seminars, conferences, tradeshows, and workshops are fantastic ways to get out from behind your computer, meet new people, expand your network, strengthen existing relationships, gain brand visibility, and learn new things.
- If your budget is tight, start with free meetups. Then add one paid networking experience each month. As your budget allows, add other networking opportunities and events to your schedule.
- For larger conferences where travel is required, start with one per year and choose a different one each year. As your income grows and your budget expands, you can add more events.
One Quick Warning
Don’t get caught up spending your hard-earned cash on a business event that’s really an excuse to just spend time with your friends.
Every event needs to provide a tangible result that moves your business forward and makes the investment worth it. The result might be learning something new, developing a lucrative relationship, closing a new business deal, connecting with potential subcontractors or employees, finding new strategic partners or affiliate partners, or simply building your email list.
For each event you attend, track the costs/expenses and the ROI. This data will help you decide if you should attend the event again in the future, or if next time, you should try your luck at a different event.
Make a Commitment And Show Up
As we look to the coming year, my challenge to you is to get out from behind your computer, get off social media, and get yourself to an event, workshop, seminar, meetup, or conference.
- Meetup.com is a great place to start your search for networking groups, paid events, and free meetups. If you’re interested in WordPress, there are 1,536 WordPress meetups held throughout the world.
- Visit WordCamp Central to learn all about WordCamps (low-cost WordPress conferences) to find out when the nearest one to you is happening next.
- Hit up Google! Search for your industry or focus with the word conference, event, seminar, or workshop, and see what shows up.
- Check out hands-on workshop-style events like Content Camp to uplevel your skills and work on your own business and goals.
- Ask your friends and colleagues what events they go to and which events are their favorites, and ask for recommendations on what events you should go to.
- Find out what events your clients go to — it’s pretty awesome to invest in an event where you’ll not only be surrounded by ideal clients but be one of only a few people who do what you do in the room.
Finding an event is just the first step. Next, you need to make a commitment to actually attend.
Register or buy a ticket, put it on your calendar, and show up. Eighty percent of the opportunities in life are a result of simply showing up and who you know. If making a commitment and sticking to it is difficult for you, get a friend to sign up, register, or buy a ticket too. You can be each other’s accountability partners and make plans to go together.
Investing in and attending live events has dramatically impacted the trajectory and momentum of my business and greatly enriched my personal life and it can do the same for you — and who knows, maybe we’ll even see each other at an event soon!