Many small business owners and entrepreneurs are turned off by the very mention of the word “conference” and often think of these events as a huge waste of time and money. However, there can be many benefits and opportunities when attending the right event.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of events recurring annually in the UK, and it is crucial to be selective when it comes to choosing small business conferences, conventions or trade shows to attend.
There is no value to be gained by travelling 200 miles to an event aimed at corporates with a focus on foreign trade when you are a local independent retailer with no imminent plans to import or export. However, an independent retailers convention taking place in your nearest city would be an excellent fit.
When choosing which events to attend, you will of course be guided by the annual budget you have set aside for professional development, but you should also ensure that you are likely to come away with lots of actionable ideas and relevant advice. Study the information given about topics to be discussed, as well as the reputation and authority of the guest speakers to make sure you will be getting optimal value for money.
Once you have chosen the right event for you, consider how you can most effectively reap the rewards of attending – here are 7 potential benefits you should consider.
1. Networking opportunities
Networking can be a powerful tool, which can lead to new customer leads, new supplier contacts, and potential collaborative business opportunities. It can also be a useful vehicle for learning directly from other small business owners, and an effective way to build authority in your niche.
If you aren’t a natural social animal and the idea of approaching complete strangers horrifies you, then arrive prepared with a few conversation starters up your sleeve to break the ice.
2. Learning opportunities
In any business there is always more to learn, even for the most experienced amongst us, and conferences can be an excellent source of relevant learning opportunities.
Whether it’s new knowledge about your product, business skills you need to develop, or innovative marketing techniques, you are bound to come away feeling more informed and better equipped to deal with the daily challenges of running your business.
Small business conferences can also bring you up-to-date with recent, current and future planned developments within your wider industry, to ensure that you are always one step ahead and can anticipate any future trends and changes.
3. Fresh thinking and inspiration
There is something quite liberating about getting away from it all for a day or two and spending some quality time “on” rather than “in” your business. Often, a fresh perspective can be discovered as a result of feedback from others and by taking a more distanced, objective approach.
Good guest speakers can also provide inspiration and encouragement for tired and disillusioned small business owners, ensuring they return to work refreshed and motivated.
4. Feeling of belonging
Running a small business can be quite lonely, and it can often feel as though you are struggling in isolation.
Events such as small business conferences, conventions, seminars and workshops offer opportunities to escape the bubble and connect with like-minded business people, many of whom are dealing with the exact same challenges and are eager to share their experiences.
Discussing these issues with others in a similar position allows potential for collective problem-solving, and you will almost certainly feel less alone in your endeavours as a result.
5. Marketing opportunities
Attending a small business conference or trade show as a vendor allows you direct access to market your products and services to ideal potential clients.
It also gives you a valuable opportunity to carry out some market research and learn more about your target audience in a live setting.
6. A chance to check out competitors
Conferences can give you a chance to see who your competitors are first-hand and learn about their business’ strengths and weaknesses. This all amounts to valuable research that could help to give your business the edge.
7. Opportunities to boost your reputation
Presenting at an event as a guest speaker can establish you as a thought leader in your niche, position you as an expert, increase your personal profile, raise awareness of your brand, and boost your reputation within your industry.
And even if public speaking isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other opportunities to impress potential clients and influencers at conference events, including taking part in collaborative group tasks, hiring a trade stand, exploiting additional advertising opportunities, and taking part in discussions.
Investing the time and money to attend a conference, convention or trade show relevant to your business will almost guarantee that you return home with new tools, fresh ideas, valuable contacts, and a renewed approach that will help you to become a more effective and efficient entrepreneur.