If you peruse your email inbox, you’ll probably find no shortage of invitations to events.
Not to mention that if you visit any number of industry websites or social channels, you’ll likely see more banner ads, press releases, and posts advertising upcoming events.
Organizations run countless events and conferences each year, with various themes and concentrations.
With all of these invitations flooding your inbox, it can be tough to decide which to attend, if any at all.
After all, these events can have rather large admissions prices attached to them and can take sufficient time out of your everyday schedule to attend.
What are the actual advantages of attending these events? It’s also important to consider what the downside of these events may be. And for those who can’t make it to industry events, are there any alternatives that have similar benefits?
So you’re considering an event
As with any other communications decision you may make, you should consider how this event could contribute to business goals. Refer to the communications plan you created at the beginning of the year or quarter. Does your plan include goals like increasing thought leadership or expanding your team’s skill set?
If so, a conference could be a great option. It’s important, however, to do some research before committing to attendance. Conferences and events can cost quite a bit of time and money. And with so many options to choose from, you want to make sure you’re investing in an event that will deliver the value you’re expecting.
Start by making a shortlist of conferences that speak to the goals your team has and create a spreadsheet to keep track of all the information you’ll collect about the event. Reserve columns for the title of the event, dates and time, a summary of the schedule, a list of speakers, and admissions costs.
Do some research on the event’s speakers. Read some of the speaker’s existing content or watch past presentations to gauge whether or not this speaker consistently provides insightful information.
Seek out reviews of past versions of this event. It could be useful to create keywords in your monitoring tool relating to the events in which you are interested. This will capture new articles about the event.
Even better, if your monitoring tool has social monitoring capabilities, use these features to collect posts about the event. Not all of these posts will be relevant, but they could be helpful for gauging what the community sentiment is for this event. If users post recurrent negative messages about this event, this could be a red flag that it isn’t worth your time and money.
Okay, you’ve picked an event
Once you’ve done this background research, you’ll likely have identified which event will provide the most value to your organization. After picking an event, it’s important to consider the advantages of attending.
Events are rife with the opportunity for learning new information and skills. Continuous learning is incredibly important for communicators. The lines between different communications practices continue to blur, technology and strategies evolve and change, and social media platforms introduce new features and algorithm changes. It’s important for communicators to stay current with these changes, sharpen their existing skills, and develop new ones, and events can provide that information professionals need to grow.
Regardless of the event, attendees have the opportunity to mingle and chat, forming new working relationships and presenting the opportunity to gain new business. Part of communicators’ responsibilities involve forming new relationships and generating new leads, and although many channels exist to foster these relationships and produce inbound leads, an event offers access to hundreds of new industry contacts and potential leads.
Additionally, events create opportunities for content creation and social engagement. Most events have a hashtag and encourage social posting. This allows your communications team to engage with other attendees of the event and vary the content that your followers typically see from your account. Following the event, your team can also create content for your blog about wrap-ups or takeaways.
What are the disadvantages?
Although events can be beneficial to professionals, it’s also important to consider the disadvantages of attending.
The main disadvantage is, of course, the costs they can incur.
As mentioned above, events tend to require a significant investment of money and time. With admissions prices costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars, plus travel, accommodations, and meals, events are no small investment.
For each member of your team that attends, you also have to factor in the money you’re spending in the form of their time. Attending a conference for a day or more, rather than spending that time in the office, involves putting on hold whatever work you have. Time spent at events surrenders at least an eight-hour work day. For some, this trade may not prove viable or profitable.
In addition to the investment, the failure to deliver the promised value is a potential disadvantage. Even if you research events and vet its speakers, it’s possible that the event will fail to live up to what you expected. In this case, the time and money spent will feel like a waste.
What if you’re not ready for an event?
With the cost and potential for an event to deliver minimal value, it’s possible that some organizations may not feel ready to commit to attending an event.
Still, ongoing education and professional development are important for PR practitioners. Continual learning strengthens existing skills and introduces communicators to new information necessary for career development.
Opportunities do exist that offer some of the same benefits as events without the risks or costs. Check out industry blogs, like Social Media Today, PR Daily, and PR News, for daily content on a variety of relevant industry topics.
If you’re looking for something a little more in depth, consider downloading an eBook. These guides offer longer copy that gets into more detail on a targeted topic.
More of an audio learner? Consider signing up for a free webinar or downloading a podcast. Spin Sucks just launched their podcast, and each week, host Gini Dietrich talks about changes in the communications industry. PRWeek also frequently offers free webinars, as well as a library of their past webinars.
Events hold a lot of potential value for communications teams, but only if they’re properly researched. Although there are disadvantages to attending, the potential for learning is perhaps their most valuable asset, as continued learning secures the future of a well-round, informed communications industry.
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