Is it worth displaying at a conference? An exhibitor’s perspective

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Tribal Habits recently attended the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) National Congress. It was the first conference we’ve attended as a business, so I thought I’d take a moment to share some thoughts from this event and events in general.

The theme of this year’s AHRI congress was ‘The Future is Human’ which as a human, felt reassuring, but as a member of a technology company with a booth at the conference, felt a little unerring.

The importance of human connection.

As I sat at our booth waiting for sessions to finish and people to flood in with questions about employee induction, SCORM compatibility and best practice sharing, I started to think about the importance of human connection in today’s business landscape.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the ‘future of work’ and technology-driven change (Tribal Habits is a remote-first work environment, and we use all sorts of technology solutions to get our jobs done), However, with endless digital tools and optimisation opportunities I think its easy ignore the benefits of genuine human-to-human interactions.

A counterpoint to the digital noise

As a marketer, so much of what I do now is done digitally from email automation, user journeys, to persona generation, that the vast majority of my work is carried out by me and my computer. My assumptions largely guide what I do, and they are only deemed effective by measuring open rate, click-through rate or studying what Google Analytics churns out each month. In-person events and, to a lesser degree human conversations, are often an afterthought. In this article, I want to discuss the importance of human interaction in the B2B landscape.

Technological personalisation is anything but…

Dear %firstname%, don’t you think we’ve reached a point now where your ‘personalised’ emails are viewed by your audience for what they are: autogenerated email-blasts based off some activity you performed on a companies website? I think we’re at a point now where we all see through that.  We are so overwhelmed by digital content that it’s almost impossible to break through to people this way.

No matter how useful your content, well worded your email titles read or pretty your infographic looks, they are not enough to stand up on their own. Successful sales and marketing endeavours, particularly in the B2B space always have a human face to them.

It’s perhaps then not a shock to see that face-to-face events are once again increasing in popularity as businesses and the people who work for them strive for meaningful connections with their peers, their industry and their suppliers

The chart below suggests that these events are delivering results as well.

Here are some things the AHRI congress taught me:

Marketing metrics only tell you so much – Tribal Habits had recently rolled out new positioning. The opinion of our team and some anecdotal feedback from some clients and friends was the new messaging was effective. The AHRI conference provided true insight into how effective and engaging our new positioning was. Reading people’s body language and speaking with them to see if they understood what we did, provided valuable insights into areas we could improve on when it comes to speaking about our product. And on that point…

I learned to speak about our product – I’ve been with Tribal Habits for four months now, and despite being involved in determining how we position our product, I have had limited real-world experience interacting with prospects. There is nothing like a little deep-end theory to sharpen your pitch and product knowledge. It took a few attempts to nail it, but by the end of the three days, I feel like I had my approach down pat. Lead with the ‘why’ not the ‘what’ as Simon Sinek would say.       

Events build a brand – Speaking with fellow exhibitors in the downtimes between sessions was an unforeseen benefit of the event. On top of meeting with numerous potential partners, I also gained valuable insight into the learning and development space. On the topic of brand, several exhibitors mentioned that each year they come back to the congress they feel they are better known and understood in the market place. While it’s hard to measure with a definitive KPI, I think there is real (often subliminal) value in simply being present at these events.

Leads..leads..leads – – Similar to what the chart above is suggesting, we found the congress to be fertile ground from a business development point of view. There were a significant number of organisations that we’d say are in our wheelhouse in terms of size and complexity and I think we did a good job of engaging with them. We received more leads, and higher quality leads, in three days at the conference than we would have through months of content and paid marketing efforts. The fact that we have a human connection suggests to me that these leads will come to fruition sooner than our average content-generated lead.  

Client retention –  The event presented a great opportunity to speak with our current clients and introduce to members of our team hey would otherwise have had the pleasure of meeting. Strengthening these relationships is key to us understanding our clients and their challenges and continuing to adapt our product to meet their evolving needs.

My main takeaway from the event? While digital engagements will continue to grow and influence the way we do business, the companies that will succeed will be those that harness the power of these technologies in concert with nurturing genuine human connections. So, keep pouring over your data and optimising your processes but remember that your metrics are only metrics and, in the end, the future is human.


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