So you're going to INBOUND 2018? For those of you who don't know what INBOUND is:
HubSpot (an inbound marketing and sales platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers) hosts the INBOUND conference. "INBOUND is a community of people who are passionate about marketing, selling, and delighting customers in an inbound way. Our annual event and year-round media platform inspire and educate hundreds of thousands of people so they—and their businesses—can grow better."
There were over 21,000 attendees at INBOUND 2017 – a number large enough to raise some people's anxiety levels; even seasoned professionals have a love-hate relationship with conferences. INBOUND, like most conferences, offers networking opportunities for HubSpot users, small business owners, marketers, and both B2B and B2C professionals looking to improve themselves and their businesses.
INBOUND is an investment: tickets, transportation, lodging, food, and coffee (oh, so much coffee) can rack up the bills (hopefully also frequent flier miles!).
We're an ROI society. We need to know an investment will pay off. Leading Results learned that INBOUND was worth the time and effort to attend and is the most significant continuing education option for our staff.
Besides the education, we get to reconnect with colleagues from around the world and meet new people to grow our business relationships.
INBOUND is worth it for us, but we learned prep work is a necessity.
Do this well before INBOUND. We started with housing. We usually look at Airbnb or other such services; because seven of us are attending INBOUND, we found accommodations six months in advance. Hotels close to INBOUND are pricey, and we don’t mind hanging out with each other, so Airbnb works better for us.
We registered a little late (for us), in June (INBOUND is September 4-7 this year). At the end of July, we created an Excel sheet for our plan of attack. We each choose our top three sessions, and then we make sure we don't have any overlaps – except for the keynote speakers. Everyone needs to see them. Leading Results employs the divide-and-conquer strategy. There are multiple sessions I would love to attend for many time slots, so it takes the seven of us to come even close to covering everything (and we still miss a lot). Not to fear, INBOUND records most sessions and release videos when the conference ends.
Bring business cards, phone/tablet/laptop chargers, and the proper footwear.
Also, will any of your customers be attending? Have they been to INBOUND before? If not, forward them this blog and plan to meet them on the first day. There’s strength in numbers and meeting people you have a business relationship with can put everybody at ease. Something I do is send out invitations to people presenting at INBOUND and book a short podcast session with them. I narrow it down to three people I’d like to interview and usually talk to one. Here are two of the folks I've recorded podcasts with at the last two INBOUNDs: Jenny Butler and Lisa Brouwer.
Check in and pick up your badge. Keep your badge close – it's your only way into the sessions and is literally your meal ticket for lunch (the food trucks are so good). This year, Deepak Chopra, Shonda Rhimes, Tarna Burke, and many more wonderful speakers are waiting to share their knowledge with you, so don’t miss out by losing your INBOUND badge and having to pay for another.
Once INBOUND begins, do as you planned and split up to cover the action. Go your separate ways for the sessions and then meet up for the keynotes, meals, and parties.
One thing I’ve learned from the three times I’ve attended is that taking notes can be challenging; you’re usually in tight quarters during the sessions, so it’s difficult to take notes that are decipherable for when you return home. INBOUND has improved with sending slides and videos of the sessions, but I advise taking notes on the key points rather than trying to keep up with every word the speaker says. Consider taking pictures of key slides and write enough to have context; review your notes at the end of each day or at lunch, so you know you have the key points for those who didn’t get to attend.
Check in with your coworkers, customers, and friends at INBOUND, but also take time to speak with the 100 or so new friends you sat with during the sessions. You can learn from your fellow attendees in those moments before a session starts and after it wraps up. Exchanging business cards is great, but don’t forget to enter them into your CRM with a quick note so you remember what the connection was or conversation you had with your new contact.
One of the most difficult things is to stay hydrated, eat at least one healthy meal a day, and rest – you’ll be busy.
Consider social media – you must find the balance between posting to social media and truly experiencing the keynotes and sessions. Use the #INBOUND18 hashtag – many people are jealous you’re at INBOUND and want to live vicariously through you, so throw them a bone.
And have fun! INBOUND Rocks is fun at night; last year comedians Tiffany Haddish and Judd Apatow had everyone howling with laughter. The year before, INBOUND was the week of the U.S. Presidential election; the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah brought his signature sharp and smart commentary. This year, 2 Dope Queens (Phoebe Robinson & Jessica Williams), NPR & HBO’s hit comedy podcast, grace the stage. Between INBOUND Rocks, the parties, and the networking events, you’ll have fun in addition to all the learning.
Rest and reconnect with your family and friends; when you’re re-energized, review your INBOUND notes. Leading Results has a big INBOUND share session where we share one big concept for each session/panel we attended. (This is why notes are so important.)
By the end of the week after INBOUND, make sure you’ve followed up with your customers and new contacts. Send out social media requests and add a personal note about the conversation you shared.
By taking time to strategically prepare for the sessions to attend and people to meet, you can make sure you and your company get your money’s worth out of INBOUND (and then some).
Here's our video recap of our INBOUND 2017 experience.
Are you attending INBOUND 2018? What’s YOUR strategy?
P.S. – Want to go? You can register here.