It is safe to say conferences ARE back. Having been working from home or in some restricted capacity, we all welcome the opportunity to reunite and learn at these gatherings. You can be (just) a body at a conference, float from party to party. Or you can consider how to make the most of your attendance, which no one says cannot include parties.
The growth and development of you and your staff should always be on your plan. Ongoing enhancement is especially crucial if you are in marketing. Marketing technology, platforms, and insights are constantly evolving, as are our customers. Every year, millions of dollars are spent on talent acquisition, yet nearly too many new employees quit their jobs within six months, often pointing to a lack of training as a primary reason.
I’ve mentioned this before, but time and time again, I have found managers putting “nice” people into roles and then letting them figure out how to do their jobs or elevating high performers into positions but not providing the proper training for them to succeed.
Additionally, as responsible marketers, we are faced with
understanding the relationship between what we do and the desired result,
proving the efficacy of social media,
explaining how and why things like our website work and the role it plays in reaching our goals, and
taking a wealth of data and leveraging it to show a correlation between our actions and the results we create.
Casino Marketing Shifts Make It Essential to Enhance Our Skills
The casino gaming sector is undeniably a great place to start and develop a marketing career. It doesn’t hurt that it is one of the most exciting industries to work in. Although I did not start my marketing career in the casino industry, it was the springboard to a career that has brought many great rewards.
American Gaming Association President Bill Miller described 2021 as a remarkable year. He was referring to the expansion in gaming and how customers were responding to our products, but it was also a noteworthy year for marketing.
Many of us had to learn to do even more with even less. The changes in consumer behavior have us questioning our tried and true approaches and adopting new modes of communication.
Benefits of Attending Conferences
Casino conferences are likely the best opportunity to understand the various shifts and changes in marketing and consumers.
Networking may seem like something left for the sales team, but it is a vital part of conference attendance. It only takes one new relationship to change your business or career trajectory. One idea can change your approach to all of your work. Moreover, trading notes on processes and tactics with people in your industry is invaluable.
A tradeshow floor helps you discover tools you never thought you needed and verify those under consideration.
My favorite part of any conference is learning. As a property marketer, I gained an incredible amount of knowledge sitting in the audience, frantically trying to write everything down or snapping a photo of a relevant slide on the stage. As a speaker, sharing my experience and knowledge is a blessing, and when someone wants to continue the conversation, that puts me over the top.
Shameless plug: This is why I keep building Casino Marketing Boot Camp into a handcrafted experience for casino marketers. The topics are developed with input from property marketers and general managers to enhance their skills to succeed in their markets. We have a single-track agenda because we feel part of the experience is when we simultaneously share the learning in the same room.
What to Expect at a Casino Conference
There are many different types of casino conferences available. The event you choose likely depends on the conference content. There are conferences dedicated to finance, legal and regulatory, table games, marketing, and more. Frankly, if you wanted to, you could easily attend two or three conferences per month, but then you would not get much work done. Would you?
Some of these conferences offer excellent sessions for marketers. I always try to make room on my calendar for
How to Make the Most of Your Conference Attendance
Every conference is different in its content and the way it is shared, but there are some common elements to making the most of your experience.
Understand Your Attendance Goal
If your review of the benefits of a conference is a good fit for your operation, you still need to prioritize what you want to get from it. Is it to meet people (one, a few, many)? Are you trying to establish a particular partnership for yourself? Are you trying to become more knowledgeable? Is it an opportunity to evaluate tools hands-on?
The people you talk to, the sessions you attend (even where you sit in the session), and the vendors you visit will depend on your goals. Know your goals before you arrive so that you can set a schedule to reach your targets.
Connect in Advance
You may not have a list of attendees and their contact information, but there are ways to connect in advance.
Post your registration to your social networks and ask who else may be attending.
Take a look at the list of speakers and if they are interesting to you, message them on LinkedIn so that your approach on-site will be warm and help you stand out from all the other business card givers. As a bonus, you can also get a good idea of what they generally talk about, giving you a tremendous on-site conversation starter. Twitter has also proven a great place to start a pre-arrival conversation with them.
Follow the conference hashtags and jump into the conversations.
I try to have one or two questions ready before arrival, and I also try to live post to my social accounts, tagging them. I always make a note of social handles for all speakers in advance. This pre-arrival prep might be my conference not-so-secret weapon.
Plan Your Day
If you are attending a single-track conference, this is done for you. However, if you have previously participated in a larger event with multiple tracks, you know sometimes you are faced with a Sophie’s Choice of sessions.
Review the agenda in advance so that you can flag sessions that are highly relevant or of interest. We often find ourselves in conversations following one session and completely forget we were interested in one that follows. The doors might close, or you might find yourself walking with others into the wrong session.
Consider watching videos of speakers in advance. Despite an intriguing session description, this will help you know if you are genuinely interested in them and what they have to share. It can also provide context if you are being exposed to something new. Watching these videos can also give you some ideas for questions or conversation starters.
Prepare some conversation starters. For some starters, you do not have to go too far out of the box. Most conversations will start about the conference itself, but having a few conversation starters will eliminate the awkwardness.
What did you think of the [name of session} session?
Hi, I’m [your name]! I don’t think we’ve met yet, but I noticed [something you found in your research].
Were you thinking of going to the [name of session] session? Add a reference to the speaker research you did.
Take Care of Yourself
During a conference, sleep, diet, and exercise can go out the window. Maintaining awareness of these things is crucial because you can do more when you are at your best.
Conferences often take us into different time zones. Additionally, we are sleeping in hotels with beds, pillows, and an air conditioner that is never the same as home. Add cocktails and dinner and your whole schedule is out the window. Given all this, you must force yourself to get enough rest to maximize your experience.
Like sleep, it is far too easy for your regular diet to go awry. I am not talking about a diet to lose weight, but the healthy decisions we make at “home” become a grab-and-go that might be easy but also have consequences. If the conference includes sit-down meals, let the organizers know well in advance of any restrictions you may have. If the meals are unstructured, get to know the nearby options in advance. When your new group of friends asks for an idea, you will have one that you know will be right for your diet and nutrition needs.
Finally, if you exercise regularly, prepare to stay somewhat on your schedule. If you use the hotel gym, you might even run into other attendees, giving you a shared interest that is outside of business. You will feel accomplished and more refreshed for your day. As a bonus, when you return home, you will not face that feeling of starting over again.
Consider setting up an event outside the conference itself. People love happy hours. A few years ago, I had the honor of hosting what I like to call a Masterminds dinner at a meeting. It was a small group, but the conversation was more valuable than the entire conference itself. Small group environments can lead to meaningful discussions and long-lasting connections.
Set Your Out-of-Office Reply and Prepare to Gather New Contacts
Even when you are out of the office working, the emails will keep coming. I always recommend an autoresponder informing people when you will be returning and what they should expect in terms of a response time. If possible, refer a colleague that can help if the need is immediate. Let them know they will be the go-to in advance, review any open projects or possible landmines, and never forget to turn your autoresponder off once you return to your regular schedule.
Prepare to Introduce Yourself and Make New Contacts
When you are asked what you do, you want to be memorable, and in a sea of directors of marketing, standing out could mean a significant advantage for you. Be clear and descriptive in simple terms, but show them that what you do matters. Often this will help move conversations forward.
Conference butterflies are always prepared to exchange cards. Pack a few extra cards in your bag and refill your stash every morning. You should also have a process for the cards you collect. I have tried tucking them into my card holder in exchange for the one I remove to hand to someone. This method will work until you run out and find yourself handing out someone else’s card. Whenever possible, try to make a note on the card so you can recall the conversation or the promise you made. Some of us will have apps that allow us to scan and save the cards in a database. Do this AFTER the follow-up. Those apps never record your notes with a simple scan.
Take Lots of Notes and Pictures
Each session will contain valuable information you’ll want to remember. Rather than relying on the pads and pens customarily left on the tables by the hotel, bring a small notebook with enough available pages to jot down your notes and an extra pen or two, maybe in various colors, to help you separate sections visually. Ensure you title each session accordingly rather than letting notes from one session run into the other.
When the presentation contains detailed slides, consider taking a photo to help you remember everything rather than trying to capture it all with pen and paper. You might even consider posting the picture with your takeaway in the comments.
Make sure you use the conference hashtags. While you have your cell phone out, take pictures with other attendees and tag them in your social posts. This will increase the views you will receive, and they will more likely reshare.
You never know how badly rough wifi can eat up your battery life until you find yourself saving the last 15% of your battery. Pro tip: bring an extra power bank or two. Many travel-size power strip options can save your life and is a perfect way to make new friends!
Even if your primary goal is not networking, you will inevitably make new contacts. How you follow up will determine the type of relationship you will develop.
The easiest thing to do is connect on LinkedIn that same day.
As soon as you can, send an email and try to share an interesting piece of content your new associate may find helpful. If you are like me, pack a few notecards and stamps and try to send at least one or two handwritten notes that might meet them at their desk when they return. Additionally, consider expanding your list of follow-ups to speakers and organizers. If you do not have a mailing or email address, try sending a message on LinkedIn or any social platform they use for their content.
Finally, Share Your New-found Knowledge
Present to your team so they can be just as excited about the knowledge you gained.
A casino conference is an excellent opportunity to network with other marketers and learn new things. It is also a great place to find out what is going on in online gambling, currently impacting nearly every operation. You might even meet some potential partners, vendors, and (if you are B2B) clients. Casino conferences provide opportunities to discover new tools, uncover changes in how consumers respond, and learn new tricks to make us better marketers.