Attending events relevant or beneficial to your podcast can hold exciting opportunities—unless you make these mistakes.
I also recommend you listen to “How to Get the Most from Podcasting and Social-Media Conferences” (episode 229) and “9 Tips for How to Grow Your Audience by Attending Social-Media Events” (episode 54).
Going without a plan
You may be tempted to wait until you're at the event to go with your feelings on decisions, but this often leads to missing important things.
If you have people you want to meet, sessions you want to attend, or other things you want to do, you'll be far more likely to accomplish them all if you make a plan before the event.
Committing or trying to do too much
Even with a plan, it can be easy to overcommit yourself at an event. Schedules need margin for each event to account for travel, traffic, overtime, physical needs, and any other kind of delay or extension.
At Podcast Movement 2017, I wanted to record audio interviews for a podcast episode and record video testimonials from Podcasters' Society members. Neither of these actually happened because I didn't have a plan and even if I did, I was trying to cram too many things into an already tight schedule with other commitments.
Neglecting your body's needs
Events can be rough on your body. There's the stress of travel, the potential shift in time zones, probably less sleep, a lot of talking, contact with germ-carrying creatures (often called “other humans attending the event”), and the adrenaline rush that can distract you from what your body needs.
Podcast Movement 2017 was right after I had a weird tonsil issue, so my throat was still sensitive and I was prone to frequent coughing. So I needed to hydrate with a lot of water. Consequently, this also meant I had to use the restroom quite frequently. Neglecting either of these physical need would have put me in greater discomfort and reduced health.
Investing in the wrong places
I want to make this point with my own experience, which could be completely different from your own results.
At this point, I have very little booth and sponsoring experience with conferences: I've had a booth at two Podcast Movements. But what I'm about to share is more a reflection on me, my business, and what I have to offer. So this is not about the potential value of sponsoring in general, or of sponsoring Podcast Movement.
That said, I now realize it was a mistake for me to sponsor with a booth at Podcast Movement. This is because I realized it's not a good fit for me. I think the advertised cost for my little kiosk was $1,800. Add to that the expense of getting banners made and my investment was a little over $2,000.
I loved having a place where people knew they could almost always find me. But it became more of a burden that meant I had to be there almost the entire time.
At least this year, I had fellow Podcasters' Society expert Erik K. Johnson (also host of The Podcast Talent Coach and cohost of Podcast Review Show) helping me with the booth, and that was a wonderful relief when I needed a break or it was time for my session. And Erik did a great job representing Podcasters' Society and My Podcast Reviews.
So why was this the wrong investment for me?
Having a booth is great for brand awareness. But I realized that I don't need to raise awareness for Podcasters' Society (maybe for My Podcast Reviews). If the only people who joined Podcasters' Society were people, like you, who already follow me or the other experts, then it would still be a success. In fact, I'd rather have you join than some random stranger who doesn't already know me or the other experts. Thus, I did not and do not need to raise awareness to strangers. It would be far better for me to better market to the audience I already have.
Having a booth is also great when you need a “home base.” This is great for live-streaming, demonstrations, and even some kinds of interviews. This one aspect was, indeed, good for My Podcast Reviews, which speaks for itself better in a demonstration than my marketing material does. But that's a product available for free or as little as $5/month (depending on your needs).
So to earn back the $2,000 investment, I would've needed about 50 podcasters to join the $5 plan and stay for at least a year. The investment would be easier to earn back from new Podcasters' Society members, but that's still something I could more effectively promote to my existing audience and probably get better results.
Plus, I think that $2,000 could have been better invested into many other ways to improve my marketing or even my products themselves, and the returns would have been greater.
So, for me, my business, and what I had to offer, a booth was the wrong investment. I spent under $200 to buy a meal for all my present Podcasters' Society members, and I think that was a far more worthwhile investment into relationships, even though they were relationships that I already had! (I'm guessing each person who joined us for breakfast feels a little more connected and maybe even more loyal after that.)
It could also be that you do need to raise awareness to strangers or have a “home base” for your operations.
And it could even be that while bag inserts were a good investment for me, they might not be for you.
The real unfortunate thing about this is that you might not know the right answer for yourself, unless you either invest and learn the hard way, or hire an experienced consultant to save you before you invest further.
Investing could also mean your time.
I think it can be easy for anyone—introvent or extravert—to spend most of their time with people they already know. It's certainly good to invest in those relationships to continue growth. It's also good to invest in new relationships or seek to grow shallow relationships into deeper ones.
You might also find you get more or less benefit at an event by investing most of your time with a small selection of vendors instead of trying to see them all. For example, at NAB Show 2016, I ended up speaking with very few companies: Sennheiser, Adobe, Electro-Voice, and a couple others. I could have spent only a day at the event with only those few companies, and I think it would've been a good investment.
On the other side, you might overinvest into one particular vendor and miss a bunch of other opportunities.
So, again, you have to figure out what the right investment will be for you.
Taking too much stuff
I've learned to pack light when it comes to clothing. (At many events, you could go half-naked and return with a new wardrobe! At least a wardrobe full of T-shirts.) But when it comes to technology, I tend to overpack. At least I didn't have to lug around my notebook PC, thanks to my lightweight iPad and keyboard.
Since I was trying to do too much at Podcast Movement, I took a DSLR camera, tripod, wireless microphone, and even an LED light panel and reflector! How much of that did I actually use? NONE OF IT!
I could have used all that gear if I had planned better and didn't overcommit.
I remember my first BlogWorld and New Media Expo (RIP). I took four boxes of business cards!
This also applies to how much you're carrying around during the event. Do you really need to carry a bunch of gear, marketing materials, or tech if most of your time will be spent in sessions or conversations?
Shying away from conversations
And speaking of conversations, that's often where the most value and long-term impact can be from events. One of the most disappointing things someone could say to me after an event is, “I wanted to talk to you, but it looked like you were busy or I didn't want to interrupt.”
YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION TO INTERRUPT!
Events are full of good networkers. These are the kinds of people who, when they see someone standing nearby, waiting for someone, will expand the circle of people to invite that person into the conversation. I'm trying to practice that myself.
The other mistake in shying away from conversations is in being literally shy. Maybe the person you want to meet is a celebrity to you. Please don't let that stop you from meeting them! They may have only a small amount of time and no relationship may come from your meeting, but you should still try to get what you can.
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