Look at Me! How to Make the Most of Your Nonprofit’s Presence at Conferences
So you’re all set up and ready to go…booth looking good, handouts at the ready, candy sprinkled on the table and a big smile for all of the attendees. Ideally, conferences help to spread your message, increase your visibility and bring in new corporate and individual donors. How can you make sure that all of these things happen (and folks are not just stopping by for a grab at the free chocolate)? Here are some tips that I’ve found can increase your nonprofit’s exhibitor success and effectiveness at these types of events.
- Know your audience: Rather than scattershot your presence at multiple events, make it a goal to attend only those conferences that include what your nonprofit considers its target audiences. Choose a conference where the attendees share your passion!
- Keep it simple: Create collateral that is clean, clear and to the point. Attendees who want to hear more about your cause will inquire at your booth, which is a fantastic way to inspire donors and make that very important personal connection. What people take away with them should both remind them of your conversation and clearly direct them as to where to get more information.
- When you’ve made the sale, stop talking! You’ve gotten someone to take interest in your booth and hear your spiel – now it’s their turn. To reiterate, don’t overwhelm folks with information. Learn to LISTEN. The more you understand about what people are looking for in projects and programs, the more effective you can be in delivering those services.
- Sponsor Giveaways: Raffles, giveaways, drawings – many companies may be interested in sponsoring a “big ticket” item that can draw traffic to your booth. This can be a win-win for both your organization and theirs, as attendees see that your nonprofit is backed by reputable sponsors, and those sponsors get visibility and kudos for supporting your worthy cause. An important note: make sure your organization is in compliance with state charitable solicitation and raffle rules. These vary by state, and more information can be found at the IRS’s link to charitable solicitations.
- A word about freebies: Does the world really need another small stuffed moose, logo pen or light-up keychain? In my opinion, although these giveaways may bring folks to your booth, a lot of this stuff rarely ends up being put to good use and more often is a waste of money and resources. I tend to stick with chocolate – always a crowd pleaser, and never ends up in a landfill.
Some other helpful information can be found in wikiHow’s “How to Network at a Conference”, which offers tips for those of us who feel a little shy when confronted with a large expo hall. Imagine Creative Communications expands on sponsorships, promotional products and more in “Four trade show ideas for getting attention beyond the booth.” Check these articles out and you will be well on your way to making your next conference your best yet!