Industry conferences are a key part of a company’s PR program. Not only are they great for learning about top trends, but they’re also an excellent way to network with other marketers and PR pros and build relationships with influential media.
When the world shut down in 2020, conferences were canceled and then moved to a digital format. Now that we’re in our “new normal,” conferences are back – open for in-person and digital attendance. But, as with everything else these days, they’re different.
Gone are the long, dizzying days of attending session after session in a big conference room and fighting for networking time among the other thousands of attendees. Now, there are smaller and more intimate sessions and more opportunities to network.
The Bospar fintech and marketing teams recently had the chance to attend two of the top industry conferences this summer – Finovate and DigiMarCon. They were the first in-person conferences we’ve attended since the pandemic started in 2020, so the team sat down to detail all the ways conferences have changed in our “new normal” world.
Networking is easier and less stressful
Most conferences have a digital app that allows attendees to communicate with each other without having to dig through email addresses and phone numbers. It’s quick and easy to find press, exhibitors, speakers, and other attendees and send a “let’s meet up” message. It takes the stress out of setting up meetings far in advance.
Additionally, fewer media attend the events, but the media who are there are usually relevant to your space. So, look through the app a few days ahead of time and connect with those you want to speak with beforehand!
Fewer exhibitors = smaller show floors
We all love free swag – and one of the best parts of conferences is roaming the show floor, meeting new companies, getting swag and demoing new products. We found that the show floor was much smaller than it’s been in previous years, so we were able to spend more time at sessions than walking the exhibitor floor. The downside is that it does present less networking opportunities.
All sessions are recorded for digital attendees, which means that you no longer need to choose between two sessions at the same time – you can watch one of them later. This opens the whole conference up to everyone, not just those attending in-person.
You’re also given access post-conference to content from other conferences that are hosted by the same organization, providing the opportunity to view even more panels and keynotes.
Get intimate with presenters
We found that the sessions are smaller and more intimate, which allows for more face time with presenters. We were able to meet with and speak to many of the presenters and panel members following their presentations, and we made solid connections.
We saw that attendance slows throughout the day, and the sessions after lunch and in the late afternoon are the slowest. This gives you more of an opportunity to invite media to join your client’s panel or schedule a quick 15-minute meeting with press or other attendees at that time.
Presenters also offer copies of their decks by email following the show. Write down their emails and connect with them post-conference to continue to build those relationships.
People still love happy hours
The conference wrapped up with a hosted happy hour, and while it was a 15-minute walk to the happy hour (after a long day of being on my feet), it was a packed house. In fact, we met some of our best contacts at the happy hour. If the conference is hosting a post-conference event, try to make time to attend! It’s a fun way to relax and debrief with your colleagues and meet additional people in a less-formal setting.
While the conference experience is different from the typical pre-pandemic experience, the events are incredibly useful for marketers, PR pros and companies looking to build brand recognition. At Bospar, we like to make conferences and events a big part of our clients’ PR programs – and a big part of our agency culture! We’re looking forward to seeing the evolution of the conference over the next few years.