We were hired recently by a software company to help expand their presence in North America by organizing an industry breakfast and securing 30-40 fund of fund operations professionals from the top 1% of firms in North America. Additionally, we were responsible for selecting the venue, advising on the agenda and flow of the day, providing expert strategy advice and managing the overall breakfast on the day. While this was the first event our client hosted like this in the U.S., it was a huge success. And although there are many reasons why (starting with hiring the FTF team!), here are the top three:
1. The Topic – While it can be tempting with so many potential leads in the room to create a topic that shows how great your software is, resist with all your might. Instead, create a topic around a hot industry trend and one that is also relevant to the individuals you have in attendance, and you will show off your expertise and that you stand behind thought leadership.
2. The Speakers – While you might feel that because you are paying to host an event like this and again, going back to the temptation of having so many prospects in the audience, it is best if the host NOT have a speaking role on your sessions. The speakers should represent your best clients because they’ll help sell you more than you can help sell yourself and it also builds up your credibility with the prospects in the room. You will be respected more if you don’t speak. Although I am not saying you should act like a chameleon and blend in with the walls entirely, and there’s nothing wrong with welcoming your guests and delivering some short opening remarks, keep your speaking time to a minimum of 5-10 minutes. Your attendees will get much more value from attending your event if they can hear their peers talk about some of the same challenges they’re facing. There are a number of other ways to get your branding across throughout the event like using table banners, branded badges, signage and giveaways. If you don’t have any clients that can speak, consider prospects or neutral industry participants like consultants or analysts. If one of the attendees is dealing with or comes across an issue in the future that was discussed at your event, they will remember you and think of you as their problem solver.
3. The Attendees – Don’t engage in title discrimination. While it would be nice to have the COO, CIO, CCO and all other titles with the capital “C” at your event, it can hold you back from what you are trying to achieve. The big “C’s” take more time to secure and have the most demanding schedules, so if something happens in the market or if an issue arises back at the office (and we all know that happens), then guess who’s not coming to your event? That’s right, Mr. or Ms. “C”. Additionally, the REAL decision makers can in some cases be the individuals working in the trenches – the ones that are actually doing the work. VP’s and above have more buying power than you might realize, not to mention the fact that companies have varying structures, so a VP at one firm may mean something totally different at another. It doesn’t mean leave all big “C’s” off the invite list, just manage your expectations. Our client understood this and while we did get a lot of big boys and girls to attend, we secured 70 senior level professionals from firms they wanted to start building relationships with.
Following these three simple points will put you on the path to a successful event. Sales is all about building relationships, not about showing your prospects how much you know about your product. With that said, start planning your industry event today. Position your company as industry thought leaders and problem solvers. Get out there and start building new relationships for 2011 – and give us a ring if you need help!