Marketing at Professional Conferences for Health & Wellness Business Owners
Updated: May 12
Attending a big conference soon and wondering how to best leverage the experience for your business? You've found the right blog.
If you're a small business owner in the healthcare industry, attending professional conferences is a great way to expand your network, learn new skills, and stay up-to-date on the latest research.
But conferences can also be exhausting, and money doesn’t grow on trees (especially right now).
With limited time and resources, you know you have to make the most of the conference so your attendance becomes an investment rather than an expense.
But exactly how can you network, market yourself, and show up in a genuine and relaxed manner?
That was my question as a non-clinical copywriter headed to the national occupational therapy conference... so I took a spin through the internet and rounded up some takeaways for both of us.
Make your next conference the most successful networking event yet.
Side Note: I used GPT to help write this blog. If you'd like to see the exact process I use, drop your name and email in the form below and I'll send you the video! ⬇️
Whether you're looking to generate leads, build partnerships, or establish yourself as a thought leader in your field, these tips are for you.
☕ Grab a cup of joe and read on.
Conference Tip 1: Set Goals Before You Arrive
Before you pack your bag and head to the conference, it's important to set specific goals to maximize your time and energy.
Without clear goals, you could end up wandering the exhibit hall or sessions and missing the key players in your niche. This won’t move the needle for your business... it leaves the outcome to chance instead of strategy.
You want a return on your investment of attending the conference. A clear idea of what you want to accomplish while you’re there will help.
Here are some potential business objectives to consider:
Build brand awareness
Establish partnerships with other businesses in your industry
Position yourself as a thought leader in your field
Once you've identified your objectives, break them down into specific and realistic goals such as:
Collect 50 business cards (digital or paper) from potential customers or partners — don’t forget to give them yours too!
Attend 5 sessions and visit the booths of 10 target businesses for partnership opportunities
Speak at a session or present a poster to establish yourself as a thought leader (obviously this takes a lot more planning than the other options)
Increase social media engagement by 20% during the conference
Look through the list of vendors and speakers ahead of time and identify the most beneficial connections.
You won’t be able to connect in a meaningful way with everyone… be picky about this list.
Your future self will appreciate it!
The AOTA (American Occupational Therapy Association) conference has an app for their conference. This app allows you to mark vendors/speakers that you want to visit, provides a notes section, and lets you check them off your list as well.
Conference Tip 2: Leverage Social Media
There’s no way around it — social media helps generate traffic and build brand awareness.
Social media doesn’t have to be your top marketing tool, but it will make a difference in your outreach and networking efforts before, during, and after a conference.
I went to the OT Entrepreneur Summit almost a year and a half ago and have stayed connected with people via social media that I met there. I’m STILL getting leads and customers because of those connections!
Social media is a powerful tool to connect you with other attendees, speakers, vendors and industry influencers.
Instagram and LinkedIn are my top two social networks to focus on. If your audience is on different platforms, then by all means focus there instead.
Instagram: Showcase Your Conference Attendance & Network
Instagram is focused on visual elements. (Although people WILL read your captions if you create curiosity and interest, so don’t totally neglect the captions.)
Post photos and videos of the sessions you attend, products you like, or with other people if they’re up for it. Instagram Stories give your followers a behind-the-scenes look at the conference and share real-time updates.
To make the most of Instagram, use relevant hashtags to reach a wider audience — including the conference hashtag. Also tag other attendees to increase your visibility.
Instagram is a fun and engaging platform where people expect to see business content as well as “real life” content so they get to know you as a human. LinkedIn is a bit more business oriented, but still a very popular spot to connect, share, and build authority.
LinkedIn: Connect with Other Professionals and Establish Your Expertise
LinkedIn doesn’t call itself social media… it claims to be a “professional networking platform” — but in my opinion it’s a slightly more professional version of social media.
It’s ideal for connecting with other professionals in your industry and establishing your expertise.
Use LinkedIn to connect with key players before the conference and set up meetings or coffee chats after the conference. You can also share articles and insights related to the conference topics to position yourself as a thought leader.
Join relevant LinkedIn groups related to the conference and participate in discussions to expand your visibility and network.
Don’t be shy to use social media before, during and after the conference. (Although don’t be on your phone the whole time you’re there — it’s a tricky balance.)
Leveraging social media helps you promote your business, maintain connections, and network.
Conference Tip 3: Prepare Marketing Materials in Advance
There’s nothing quite like getting to a conference and realizing you’re empty handed — literally.
Someone hands you their business card or amazing flier and you have… nothing.
That’s exactly what happened to me when I went to my very first professional conference. It made me realize just how green I that I had missed an opportunity.
I scrambled during one of the breaks to create a QR code that would bring people to my Instagram links page so at least I had SOMETHING to share. Safe to say this isn’t a mistake I’ll make again — and I’m happy to help you avoid the embarrassment and hustle too.
Before you attend the conference, make sure you have marketing materials ready to promote your brand and make an impression.
This includes both physical and digital materials AND your elevator pitch.
📝 Physical marketing materials
Kinda old fashioned… but also tried and true. These should be professional, branded, and easy to read.
Brochures or branded merchandise
These provide more information about your business and leave a lasting impression.
These can be added to physical materials to direct people to your website or a landing page.
Branded merch to wear
What about a shirt or bag that has your name or logo on it? Someone walking behind you may see it and end up connecting with you on social media — it’s essentially passive marketing!
👩🏻💻 Digital marketing materials: (Welcome to my wheelhouse)
Online business cards
Create these with platforms like LinkedIn, Canva or other business card apps to make it easy for people to connect with you digitally.
This could be similar to a “Link Page” that many business owners have for their Instagram account, or be a PDF document that people can access digitally when they follow your link.
However you design this, make sure it has a clear message about what you do, who you help, and what action you’d like them to take next — which could include connecting on social media, booking a call, or whatever else makes sense for your business.
An online nurture funnel
This gets a bit more complex… but bear with me.
A nurture funnel typically includes automated emails or social media messages to keep in touch with people you meet at the conference.
The key here is to really think about where the person is when you meet them (related to awareness of your business and readiness to become a client) AND where you want them to end up after you nurture them. Once you figure out the starting point and ending point, then you can create a step-by-step journey for people to follow.
Create a chatbot
This one is beyond my expertise, but you can create a Chatbot for your website or social media platforms that engages with visitors and is programmed specifically to talk about the conference. It can nurture leads and set you ahead of other business owners.
Social media graphics
Create graphic templates ahead of time that you can use during the conference… or at the very least, make sure your social media posts that launch during the conference are relevant.
SIDE NOTE: Want to know more about how I automate and forget my social media? I use this platform ← and here’s a walkthrough video showing you exactly how I use it.
🛗 Prepare your elevator pitch — and keep it snappy.
This is a concise, compelling, curiosity driven introduction to your business. Practice it beforehand so you don’t sound like you’re unsure what you do or who you are… also make sure it sounds natural.
For example, if I answer the question, “What do you do?” With, “Copywriting” — not many people will be compelled to ask questions or feel like they need my services in their business.
What if I answered that question with this instead…
"I write conversion-focused sales copy to generate more revenue for business owners using sales strategies they can stand behind.”
Now that may spark a question or further conversation. (At least that’s my hope!)
I could also say...
“I’m a non-clinical OT who writes conversion-focused sales copy so you earn consistent income without using unethical sales strategies.”
Start with this prompt:
I help (((ideal client description))) get/do (((desired outcome))) through/by providing (((your product/service))) without (((thing they’re afraid of happening))).
Here’s my speech with this prompt: “I help online business owners generate consistent income by providing marketing strategy and sales copy without sounding sleazy or salesy.”
Play around with this for a while and keep refining it — it will evolve over time.
Just remember clarity is better than being overly clever.
Conference Tip 4: Network With Purpose
This goes hand-in-hand with tip #1. Once you’re at the conference, ruthlessly protect your time and energy.
Now, this may sound harsh, but if you’re in a conversation that isn’t going to move your business forward, and you aren’t interested in building a non-business relationship — then you need to politely excuse yourself.
Time is money. Your energy is limited. Spend them both wisely at the conference.
Review your goals as you get ready in the morning or throughout the day as needed and work toward blowing those goals out of the water. Of course, be flexible and open to new opportunities — just keep your goals in mind as you consider if it’s an opportunity or a distraction.
Be genuine. This probably goes without saying, but when you’re working your tail off to gain clients, but it’s possible to slip into “used car salesman” or “mall kiosk perfume lady” mode. And nobody likes hanging out with them.
Be yourself and focus on the relationship. Show interest in what the other person does and find connections or common ground. Listen to understand instead of listening to speak.
Attend the after-hours networking events. This is usually where the best conversations and connections happen!
Check the event website, social media groups, and connect with others who are attending the event to find these networking opportunities. Pass each one through the filter of your goals before you commit to attending. Also, while you’re at one of these events, if you find out it’s more of a sales pitch than a networking opportunity — feel free to excuse yourself.
# SoapBox… Don’t drink? No problem. Many of these events are held in bars, and it’s completely acceptable to attend the ones that aren’t centered around alcohol, or to simply order a non-alcoholic drink. Tell people as much or as little about your situation as you’d like. Your health and relationship with alcohol is your own business and if people aren’t respecting that boundary then find a better networking spot.
Don’t forget to follow up with leads after the conference
You’re going to fly home and want to sleep for days after a busy conference.
Block out your calendar and set aside time to follow up with leads. I know you’ll feel swamped when you get back to work — but what’s the point of networking if you don’t leverage all those connections?
You’re investing a lot of time and money to attend this conference. Maximize your investment by being smart about your follow-up. I’ve learned to block 2-3 days after conferences instead of booking client projects — it makes a world of difference!
Send an email or DM people on the social platform you like the most. Be authentic and connect about something specific. Then see where things go — maybe they’ll become a client or refer your next favorite client.
Networking with purpose is all about being intentional, strategic, and genuine. Always focus on providing value and learning about others first — you may be surprised how much people remember you when all they did was talk about themselves. 😉
Have FUN While Networking at Professional Conferences
Attending professional conferences can be a valuable experience for small business owners in the healthcare industry. With proper planning and strategy, you won’t waste time or energy.
By setting clear goals, preparing marketing materials in advance, nailing your elevator speech, leveraging social media, and networking with purpose, you can maximize your conference investment.
Remember, networking is not just about handing out business cards or making sales pitches. It's about building relationships, finding common ground, and exploring potential opportunities. You can connect with like-minded individuals and industry experts who can help take your business to the next level… or maybe you’ll take THEIR business to the next level.
If you're attending the 2023 AOTA conference, drop me an email or DM! I'd love to meet up and get to know each other.
Also, feel free to connect with me on Instagram and drop your questions in my DMs.
INSIDER SCOOP: Below is an outline of the basic conference funnel, or customer journey that I’ve set up for AOTA 2023… I’ll let you know if it works or not!
I have printed fliers to give to people AND a digital “business card” — which is actually a landing page on my website. This allows people two opportunities to connect and serves both tech savvy and not so tech savvy clients.
My flier has business deets, a picture, a concise explanation of how I help customers and why they should stay in touch with me. It also includes a QR code that leads people to my conference landing page.
From the landing page, people have the opportunity to book a complimentary 20 minute networking call after the conference. The goal here is to follow up with people who may otherwise fall by the wayside. I want to hear about their business and needs — these calls are NOT sales pitches. On the landing page, people also have the option to click on some buttons that will connect us on instagram or LinkedIn.
I tossed a few other options on there… but I should probably keep it more focused on the connection calls.
After the networking call, I’ll create a follow up email or three that thank them, highlight the benefits of working with a clinical copywriter, and potentially have a pitch for an entry level service depending on the company. These emails will be templates, but I’ll customize it for each business to make sure it doesn’t sound like a robot-email.