No matter how successful you feel a conference or trade show event was, the bottom line is still the ability to generate sales leads from conference attendees. Fortunately, there are many ways to market to current and potential customers before, during and after the conference or event. In today’s high-tech world, in which so much revolves around social media, there’s still nothing that replaces the personal connection gained in meeting people face-to-face. Here are a few tips for making the most of those connections and selling your product or service:

1. Showing Up

Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” Networking is a vital part of lead generation. First, it’s imperative to choose the right conferences and events to attend. Scrutinize the available information for the conference, and make sure it aligns with your company’s goals.

2. Prepare the Right Marketing Materials

It’s likely your company has plenty of marketing materials available, but marketing is never one-size-fits-all. You aren’t going to generate leads if your materials don’t match the purpose of the conference, or if they are too generic. Create marketing tools targeting conference attendees directly. When you meet a prospective client, they probably don’t have a lot of time to spend with you, so your marketing materials must tell the full story of why they should engage your business. Materials that lack specificity or don’t explain why the company meets your target audience’s needs are not going to generate a follow-up phone call or email.

3. Use Social Media Beforehand

Social media plays an important role in lead generation, but perhaps not the way you think. You want to use social media whether LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter– prior to the meeting to find out who is planning to attend the conference. One of the great benefits of social media is its networking aspects. You can find out who you and the attendees know in common and make note of which attendees you especially want to meet. A simple message to those individuals that you’d like to get together at the event and discuss mutual business interests is professional without seeming pushy.

4. Do Your Research

Prior to the conference, spend plenty of time researching both possible leads and their companies. You can determine the needs of the individuals, as per their current role in their organization, and the company’s overall needs regarding the product or services you’re selling. That way, when you do meet company representatives in person, you can offer solutions in a thorough, informed way. It won’t hurt that the person is likely quite impressed at the depth of your knowledge and your preparation. You reflect your company, and that kind of in-depth research bodes well for future sales. No matter the circumstances, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

5. Invest in a Lead Scanner

Bring a lead scanner or similar data collection tool to the conference. You can quickly capture an attendee’s name, title, organization and contact information from a quick scan of their nametag. Based on your interaction with these individuals, you can then prioritize contacting them once the conference is finished.