I recently spoke with Dustin Mathews, CEO of speaker training provider, Speaking Empire, who told me about a trick he recently began using in order to get more people to attend his talks at conferences, and to improve his networking at such events.
While his method is ingenious, it is also quite simple: Utilize geographically-pinpointed Facebook ads.
According to Dustin, before conferences, he purchases Facebook advertisements configured to be shown only to people at the conference venue on the day of the conference; he includes his photo and a message "Come hear Dustin Mathews speak" or "Come meet Dustin Mathews" accompanied with details as to when and where.
Today, most (if not all) attendees at a professional conference have Facebook accounts, and most of them will check their accounts at some point before or during the conference. If the conference is in a hotel, the odds are pretty good that people will check their social media accounts on multiple occasions during off hours as well.
While some people who see Dustin's ads might click on them and be directed to his website, a much larger number of people see the ads but don't act - meaning that Dustin gets to display his message to many people for free, and, in the process, create significant numbers of people who will recognize him as familiar when they see him at the conference, thereby increasing the chances of their approaching and meeting him.
Dustin has been utilizing the ad technique for several months; according to what he told me, one recent campaign at a conference at which he was speaking cost him less than $200 to run - and helped deliver an audience for his talk that was three times the size of those at several concurrent sessions.
Of course, there may be people at an event venue who are not conference attendees; this is especially true when events are held in hotels. Dustin says that after running an ad targeting people in a particular hotel he did have some folks who approached him who had nothing to do with the conference - but who assumed he must be some type of celebrity based on the ads that they had seen.
In fact, Dustin's technique might benefit people attending not only professional events - but parties as well. At least in certain environments, people at parties commonly utilize Facebook to share and "check out" photos from the event; when they open the Facebook app on their smartphones and look at their feeds, there is a good chance that they will see targeted ads.
Of course, running Facebook ads is not right for everyone or every conference. But, Dustin's technique should be in your arsenal for use when appropriate.