Generating Leads at Conferences: Why People Attend and Buy

Generating Leads at Conferences
People attend conferences to connect, learn and find inspiration. via Flickr

I’ve been to a few conferences over the years. One was for the direct mail and catalog industry. Another was for the search marketing industry – SEO and PPC.

Both were worthwhile, but for different reasons.

With the direct mail conference we used the conference as a way to meet with other businesses to discuss mailing strategies and other strategies. The big topics at the time were eCommerce and postage rates. It was good to get input from others on issues they were dealing with and to see how they were dealing with those issues.

The search conference was more of a learning experience. There were great speakers that shared case studies and stories about topics like SEO, video and social media. People always packed the house for speakers that were great storytellers. It seems we all can learn something from a story more than we can learn from a textbook.

Maybe it’s the kid in all of us that still likes listening to a fable than a chapter from a textbook.

Beyond meetings and speakers I noticed that conferences also were a hotbed for business vendors.

Studies reveal that conferences and tradeshows are still one of the best ways to generate business leads. Over 20% say events are very effective and another 50% say events are somewhat effective.

What I find interesting is the reason why these events are so successful with lead generation.

Reason #1: Connection

Humans naturally want to connect with each other. Conferences provide a great outlet for people to connect with others that share similar world views.

You can meet just about anyone at events and the great thing is you know you share some common interests. You both work for similar companies that share similar qualities and methods. You experience the same problems and as you connect with each other you can figure out ways to solve those issues and keep your businesses growing.

In business, we often get caught up in what we’re doing internally. Sometimes it’s good to get an outside perspective. We can read the industry news and opinion pieces, but getting together with others in the industry has always been a great way to find new perspective on what’s really happening outside of the headlines.

Reason #2: Learning

People flock to conferences each year to learn what’s happening in the industry.

Conferences and events are stocked with people from other companies that have stories to share. We touched on that above. You can learn from one another and find new ways to add value to your business.

The conference speakers also have great information to share. I remember going to the search conference a few years ago and finding that the speakers who simply told the story of their success in an area had the most value. I could sit in the audience, listen to the story and find ways to draw parallels with the company I worked for.

People love going to conferences because there is always something to learn. You go back to the office with a huge list of opportunities. You won’t ever be able to do them all, but you can prioritize the list and start working on a few new strategies.

Reason #3: Inspiration

Finally, people attend conferences for inspiration. Getting out of the office provides your brain with new stimulation. It’s not always exciting to travel on airplanes and stay in hotels, but the new surroundings make your brain work overtime to process things.

At conferences you can see the world through a new lens. I know I felt great getting out of the office after months and months of the same old. Meeting new people and listening to speakers rejuvenated by passion.

Generating Leads

Now, let’s get back to lead generation. Those vendors at conferences understand the three reasons why people attend conferences and they use that knowledge to generate leads.

The last time you were at a conference you probably had a conversation with a vendor at their booth. The first thing they do is introduce themselves. They’re working to form a connection. They ask about your company. They share a little information about theirs. You talk about a few personal things like family, kids and golf.

Next, the vendor provides a little information about the industry. They try to give you information that you can use to improve your company. They might have a case study or a collection of stats from research they’ve done.

Finally, vendors often have a way to inspire. They might share a case study by giving a talk during the event. They might take a group of people out to lunch or dinner to encourage discussion that provides inspiration.

It’s all part of generating leads. You get to know these vendors and once you leave they create a plan for reaching back out with their solution. Actual sales aren’t usually made during the conference, but the first stages of lead generation work extremely well.

Connecting, Educating and Inspiring

Now you know why people attend conferences and how vendors use that knowledge to generate leads.

This strategy doesn’t need to apply only to conferences. You can use the Connection-Educating-Inspiring model to generate leads in a number of ways. You may already be generating leads in this way without realizing it.

Take the list of 10 Ways To Get Free Small Business Leads. You can use each of those to get leads by using the Connecting-Educating-Inspiring model.

Use the method that works so well for vendors at conferences and create a balanced lead generation model.

We’re partial to business blogging for lead generation at Ghost Blog Writers. We try to connect, educate and inspire with the posts. It’s not always easy, but when you stick with it for the long-term your blog works as an asset that always brings in traffic, leads and new customers.


These are specific reasons companies can generate leads and events, conferences and tradeshows. There is an element of developing trust when you meet someone face-to-face.

But you can take a cue from events and develop other lead genrerating strategies.

Take that knowledge and use it to turn your company into a lead generating machine.

You’ll start adding clients consistently through a variety of channels.

It’s the best strategy for long-term success.

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