Business-to-business conferences are all about one thing: results. As an organizer of these meetings, I guarantee that these four tips will help you to plan a productive meeting at which attendees--and your company--will develop significant new contacts and potential new business.
1. Invite corporate executives to speak--Any successful business- development conference starts with its. A basic rule is to have as many corporate executives--as opposed to outside service providers--speak and teach at your meeting as possible. If you are holding a conference on mergers and acquisitions in the telecommunications industry, it's better to have AT&T's director of business development there than to schedule the partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers who did the valuation work or the banker from Morgan Stanley who served as an adviser. Attendees want to mix with other corporate deal makers, not with service providers, who are perceived as looking for clients (even those with top-flight credentials).
2. Fill your audience with decision makers--A room full of senior corporate executives--as opposed to one of bankers, outside counsel, Big 5 accounting firms, and consulting firms--is a room in which serious discussions take place. Without them, what happens is mere brainstorming.
3. Invite speakers from organizations with which your company wants to do business--An often overlooked way to develop new business is to select faculty who will work for you. If your company is hosting the conference, you have a wonderful tool for establishing new business relationships--the invitation.
Let's say you are a large pharmaceutical company interested in acquiring smaller companies in Europe. You can establish relationships with those companies by inviting their CEOs, heads of business development, and other decision makers to speak. Even if your invitation is not accepted, the gesture plants seeds for a future relationship. If the recipient accepts, the relationship has begun.
4. Promote your speakers--It's amazing how many companies create a dynamite conference but don't take the crucial step of listing the faculty on the conference brochure. Study after study shows that a person who receives a brochure in the mail spends about five seconds scanning its cover. The right faculty can play a significant role in getting that person to open your brochure, learn more, and perhaps even attend your event.