Maximizing Conferences as a Vendor | Going Beyond the Tradeshow Floor

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Jared Hancock

2022: 21 conferences, 17 states, 48 days on the road. So, yeah, we learned a thing or two to improve our 2023 conference season. Without further ado, here are our tips and tricks for making the most of conferences as a vendor!

Undeniably, conferences provide a rare opportunity for vendors to connect, network, and showcase their products or services to a captive audience of industry professionals. However, you can’t just show up and expect the right individuals to pick you out amongst the crowd. You can’t just attend as a vendor, it requires careful planning, strategy, and execution to ensure a maximum return on investment.

Research & Select the Right Conferences:

After our stint on “The 2022 Paperwork Stinks Tour” we learned that not all conferences are created equal, and it’s crucial to choose events that align with your target audience and business objectives. Thoroughly research potential conferences, and talk to well-seasoned vendors/attendees in the industry about which conferences attract your ideal customer, are industry relevant, and have a reputation for being well organized. Prioritize the conferences known for their quality networking opportunities. Our favorites include:

  • Senior Living Executive Conference “Argentum”
  • Leading Age National Conference (for our non-profit operators)

Set Clear Goals & Objectives:

Before attending a conference, define specific goals, contacts, and objectives that align with your overall business strategy. Are you aiming to generate leads, increase brand awareness, build partnerships, or promote the launch of a new product? Setting clear objectives will help you focus your efforts and measure the success of your conference participation. 

Oftentimes, it’s difficult to wedge your way into an executive’s calendar during the conference. Therefore, it’s critical to schedule dinners (dare we suggest breakfast?), coffee chats, and other personalized networking opportunities far in advance so you’re not too late to the game in scheduling your time with a prospective client.

Create an Attractive and Engaging Booth:

At Senior Sign, we like to think of our booth as “the brightest part of your day”...literally. Our brand is bold colors, bright lights, and pink polos. You really can’t miss us!

Your booth is the first impression attendees will have of your brand. We’ve found it’s worth it to invest in a visually appealing booth that reflects your brand identity and grabs attention. We chose to utilize a common refrain we hear from customers, “Docusign Sucks for Senior Living.” Why does it work? It is arresting. It is bold. It defines what space we are in. It begs the question, “Well, why DOES Docusign suck for Senior Living?” It also acts as a qualifier for our ideal customer. Typically, our ideal customer is eager to adopt technology to improve efficiency and if they’ve tried to digitize their move in process, they likely have tried Docusign (or something similar) and had a, well shall I say it, sucky time.

Ensure your booth has well-designed signage, informative and simple displays, interactive elements, and engaging visuals to entice attendees to stop by. Consider offering product demonstrations, conducting a giveaway, and providing quality handouts/swag. When choosing your swag, think about who you want to get it. You all know the person with their reusable shopping bags going booth-to-booth to just get some trinket to bring home. Think about your ideal customer and what they would want. We have been known to give away Diet Coke’s while we are exhibiting in a Pepsi only convention center. Not to get into who our target is, but least to say, Diet Coke (and only Diet Coke) tends to be very important.

Additionally, when designing your booth, it’s important to provide clear messaging so an attendee can connect what your business does simply through visuals. A booth design that conflicts with business operations provides a lot of confusion and tends to attract the wrong audience.

Events, Events, Events:

Some of our best networking opportunities have happened outside of the tradeshow floor. Investing in an exclusive event for clients of interest is a highly effective way to have conversations that lead to results and real time progress. We’ve seen success in partnering with vendors who share similar interests to plan memorable events for clients. Partnerships allow you to invite your current most rabid customers to the event to advocate for you, while you are introduced to your partner’s most loyal customers.

Make the most of the opportunity conferences provide! Attend other networking events, socialize during breaks, and actively seek out potential customers, partners, or industry influencers. Approach conversations with a genuine interest in building relationships rather than focusing solely on selling. Remember to exchange business cards, take notes on conversations, and follow up with a personalized message or meeting after the conference.

Leverage Social Media:

Social media is a powerful tool to amplify your conference presence. Before the conference, create buzz by posting about your participation and connecting with those who are also attending. The senior living industry is a tight knit community - so, it’s always enjoyable to reconnect with friends! 

During the conference, share updates, photos, and highlights using event-specific hashtags. If there’s one place to gather content, it’s at a conference! Engage with attendees, speakers, and organizers through social media to expand your reach and foster connections beyond the conference.

Capitalize on Speaking Opportunities:

If the conference offers speaking slots or panel discussions, seize the opportunity to showcase your expertise. Speaking engagements establish you as a thought leader, enhance your brand credibility, and attract attention from attendees. Prepare well-crafted presentations that provide value and actionable insights for the audience. Be sure to promote your speaking slot in advance to draw a larger audience to your session. From a marketing standpoint, these speaking opportunities are fantastic for online content, blogs, podcasts, and clips for social media.

Follow Up and Nurture Leads:

After the conference, diligently follow up with the leads you’ve generated. Send personalized emails, handwritten cards, make phone calls, or connect on LinkedIn. Consistent follow-up is crucial for converting leads into customers or building long-term partnerships. Ideally, you have an agreed upon next step with your key leads before they leave your booth. Don’t be afraid to get something on their calendar right there on the floor. If this is not possible, we can tell you with certainty that you have a very small window of time to actually lock in your next step - ideally within 48 hours of them returning from the conference. With each day that passes, your probability of moving forward with the lead decreases by about 50% until it results in zero, meaning the only thing that conference did was create awareness for your product, and not tangible financial results. 


Conferences hold immense potential for your company to accelerate business growth, increase brand visibility, and forge valuable connections. It may take a couple of conferences to get your footing and recognize faces within the industry - but, hopefully this article reduces the amount of tries it takes for you to stick the landing. Be aware, take good notes, make quick adjustments, and tackle every conference with the intention of making it worth everybody’s time. Go get ‘em!

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