Do you have a small business that you want to grow? Are you trying to improve communications and maximise profits while maintaining a steady customer base? Chances are, you are thinking about attending a small business conference.Small business conferences have become big business (ahem) so we have rounded up some advice for you on the whys, hows, wheres and whats. Check out our handy guide below.
Why attend a conference for small businesses?
First of all, what’s the point of spending money to go to a small business conference when you could just read an article? The main benefits are:
Experience: If you want to know how to do something well, ask an expert. Small business conferences are usually packed with experienced business owners and builders. So, attending one is a great way to get the advice you need from those who have already done it.
Inspiration: Keynote speakers inspire audiences with solutions and innovative practices. Soak it up and get a kickstart to your business ambitions. A bit of clarity helps you to see where opportunities lie and then capitalise on them.
Content: You will see real-life examples of how to change your operations for the better. Events are packed with ideas that you can try out to increase sales, revenue and productivity.
Empowerment: Business owners and entrepreneurs share their successes, failures and experiences. This is a great way to revive your enthusiasm. They will give you the confidence to try something new to skyrocket your business to the next level.
Marketing opportunities to future clients: Networking is a great way to connect with potential business partners face-to-face. Make contacts and fill up your address book.
Keep abreast of small business trends: If you know what’s coming in your industry, you can plan accordingly and stay ahead of the curve.
What should you expect when you get there?
Currently, in the UK there are more small business events and conferences than ever. They offer a wide variety of different options. From marketing and social media to tech and self-improvement to youth topics and many more. Here are some itinerary options that might inspire you to sign up:
Keynote speakers: Check out who they are and find out if they are discussing a small business opportunity that interests you. Don’t forget, they often have question and answer sessions. Go armed with questions so you can get relevant information for your business.
Topics/themes: Most small business conferences are topic-themed. To find out how to improve your digital presence, find a conference in that field. Alternatively, if you are more interested in innovation, then look for this in the package.
Workshops: Group learning sessions are a great way to pick up tips and ask vital questions. They are usually focused on a niche area of business growth, so choose the one that suits your needs.
Networking: Seize the opportunity to meet with both peers and experts. Mingle and find out what others are doing to expand their businesses.
Training: Some conferences set up training sessions, so make sure you know about what’s on offer in advance and sign up fast. Seating is sometimes limited.
How do you get speaking engagements at conferences?
Maybe simply attending isn’t enough. You are a successful business owner and you want to share the benefit of your wisdom. It’s a great way to get free publicity for small business owners, so do your research and then look for a suitable event. Here’s how to get started finding speaking opportunities:
Know your market. What do you want to talk about? Do your research and find an event that is looking for people with your experience.
Decide if you expect compensation. It is easier to get non-paid gigs.
Follow other speakers online and learn from their advice.
Start locally by checking out local events. Use the Internet to narrow your search.
Google is your friend. A Google search gives instant results, but a handy trick is to scroll past the most popular hits and check out the ‘searches related to’ box at the bottom. This will refine your search and gives you the keywords to use to reach your goal.
Twitter also gives good results. Try using hashtags for conference topics that interest you.
Go to conferences. This may seem obvious, but if you want to make contacts in the small business conference sector, it pays to start networking. Once you establish a positive reputation, the offers will start rolling in.
Finally, get yourself an agent:
Sign up to an agency that specialises in matching speakers with events: JLA is the UK’s largest agency for keynote speakers.
Or try Contraband. Event bookers use this agency to fill their itineraries. Register your service/specialism and sit back and wait.
How to make yourself attractive to business conference bookers and agencies
Once you have a list of small business conferences or agencies that interest you, prepare to make contact.
Check the cut-off dates to apply to speak. Speakers are normally booked months in advance, so prepare as early possible.
Contact the coordinators and ask pertinent questions about the event to build rapport with the organisers.
Make a video/showreel of yourself delivering a speech. This is a great way to pique the interest of agencies/bookers.
Prepare a letter outlining your qualifications and what you offer. Keep it concise. Include:
A brief bio with headshot
Topics you cover/your area of specialism
A rundown of your speaking bookings
A link to your showcase video (see above) and/or website
Any other info, like awards, qualifications etc.
Once booked, prepare yourself like a military general, and give a great talk. A good reputation is your strongest recommendation.
What are the best small business conferences UK 2019?
Obviously, this depends on your preferred subject matter but CMA is a good place to start. The site lists upcoming small business conferences and has links to the websites. All in one handy place. EventBrite offers a similar service, listing conferences in London and the United Kingdom.
Hundreds of events are planned for 2019. So, conference organisers must keep their content fresh and their prices competitive. However, this means more choices, and as time may well be more important to you than money, you need to make a wise choice for your continued success.We’ve compiled a few events that stand out as key small business events for 2019.
If you are looking to market your business to other businesses, check out the B2B Marketing Expo. Or if your interest is more customer-focused, then try out the Sales Innovation Expo 2019, in the same location. Both offer high-quality speakers and in-depth industry information. The focus is on marketing and future trends in business.
If you want to find out what your small business owner peers are up to, then FSB is the place to start. The association runs an annual competition – FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards. By and large, they are looking for the ‘best small businesses and the self-employed across the UK, from every sector and industry, and from businesses of all ages and all sizes. The contest is open in 12 regions and covers a wide variety of categories. Culminating in a UK Final on 23 May at Evolution Battersea. Visit the FSB website to see if your business qualifies and attend the event for a networking extravaganza.
The Business Show 2019 is a free expo taking place on 15 and 16 May 2019 at ExCel London. This exhibition features workshops, training, motivational speakers and networking opportunities with the best in the business. It even offers legal clinics so you can solve any business issues you have.
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So, now you should have a better idea of why you are going to an event, what you expect to get out of it and how you can find a small business conference that suits your needs. You are ready to grow your business network and develop new leads. Expect to get inspired, start learning and create new business opportunities.