Industry events are a blast...but are they worth it?
As people begin to get back out into the world and begin to conduct meetings in person, attending industry events, and conferences now opening back up to i"n person attendance," two things are obvious: #1 it's exciting to get in front of people again to create and develop relationships, and #2 conferences and industry events don't have the "bang for buck" power as they once did as attendance has been low and unengaging, or not valuable for target customers.
The oil and gas industry is a community made up of some of the brightest, most personable, intelligent, and interesting groups with backgrounds that are as diverse as each person's upbringing. When I ask people on my podcast (Energy Crue) how they got into the industry, without fail, every single pathway and story of how people got into our industry is different. This difference in experiences is actually our similarity: we are all here, but nobody took the same steps to get here. This is the foundation of why our industry is so diverse, we have all taken different steps, made different choices, and pursued different career paths, but in the end we are all oilfield family.
As we are a family, we enjoy being around people, taking our meetings in person, getting to know someone on a personal level before we decide to conduct business with them, and so on. In order to get to know someone and to build that trust, as redundant as it sounds, we have to get to know someone. This has been touched on before in previous blog posts, but it is a simple process that far too often people bypass in order to get their product or service out, or just to make that sale. Our industry is proud of the mentality, "relationships are everything," yet when someone meets with a potential client, they aren't trying to build that relationship... they are trying to establish that transactional relationship: what can you do for me, and vice versa.
But how can people get to know someone who they just started to call on, or just briefly run into at a conference or industry event? From my experiences at DUG, Urtec, Nape, and OTC to name a few, attendance was low. Either from the new variant, or budget constraints, or people realizing they aren't as valuable as they once were so they choose not to attend. Conferences are the new car shows, with booths set up around the floor showcasing their latest technology, it reminds me of a car show. Fun to look at and go to, but how many people who go to car shows go to actually conduct business (aka purchase something)?
That's the disconnect: previously in our industry, business was conducted at industry trade shows and conferences, so it made sense to have a presence on the floor, the shiniest booth, the newest technology or tool showcased, etc. This isn't the case in today's market though. In today's market the majority of attendees go to watch a speaker series, get a pulse on the market, and worse: try to network to develop new business. I'm not saying that networking and making deals don't occur anymore at industry conferences and shows, I'm saying that as it was more useful and valuable in the past, that strategy has drastically diminished in recent years.
If you attend a conference you are potentially going to bump into some current and potential customers. If you attend golf tournaments, clay shoots, etc. you may have a brief 30 second to 5 minute chat with someone. But as far as making that conversation "stick" with a follow up, it's highly unlikely, because, they are probably having the same conversation with dozens of other people. Even industry happy hours seem to bring out more sales people than customers, as customers feel hounded at these events so they have just decided not to attend them. It even leaves the question of how effective are even lunches these days? You grabbing a potential customer for an hour out of their day, when once they get back to the office their schedule is jammed packed with other tasks for them to get to.
With capital being squeezed out of the market due to new initiatives and narratives, companies now need to direct their expenses to what makes sense. Having a 20'X20' booth set up in a conference hall just to "have a presence" is often met with a hefty bill, with the aftermath question of "was it worth it?" Customers can see your new products and services now from the comfort of their own home on their mobile or desktop, but that's only if you are effectively managing your online brand presence and content. Customers are hounded at events from golf tournaments, conferences, and happy hours. As activity is low, sales people are now thirstier than ever.
Our industry has changed and is changing: from how people conduct business, showcase their products and services, meet and develop new business relationships, as well as entertaining clients.
While I love, and will always love industry events and conferences, they are a car show to me: cool to be at, but don't plan on doing any business there.