Traveling back from AFP’s International Conference on Fundraising, it occurs to me how, as a vendor, a conference feels very much like a first date. A first, blind date, to be specific. Let me explain.

Blind DateYou don’t know going in what the other person will be like

So you got roped into a blind date with your mother’s hairstylist’s son. She assures you he’s “perfect for you,” and gives you a long list of his fabulous qualities – smart, funny, handsome, looking for the right gal to settle down with, and so on. But you know when you meet him, it’s equally as likely that he’ll have a face only a mother could love, be as interesting as a door knob, and be in the market for a casual fling. It’s a gamble.

We vendors feel the same way at a conference. Each person we meet has the potential to be Ms. New-Customer, but it’s also equally as likely that she’s Ms. Just-Seeing-What’s-Out-There, Ms. My-Board-Doesn’t-Want-to-Change-Systems, or even Ms. I’m-Just-Looking-for-the-Food-Station-Would-You-Please-Leave-Me-Alone.

In either situation, there’s no way of knowing for sure until you take that gamble and try to connect with the person.

You obsess about your “look” before, during, and after

No matter what Mr. Hairstylist’s-Son is like, you definitely want to put your best foot forward for the date – can’t have him telling people you’re a slob, right? You select your outfit carefully, take time with your makeup, and maybe even schedule a haircut in advance (but not with your mom’s stylist – how embarrassing if she were to tell her son you were primping!). During the date, you run recon trips to the bathroom to make sure you have no lipstick on your teeth and your hair is still behaving. And after, you might wonder if the outfit you wore flattered your figure as much as you were hoping.

Vendors at conferences are no different! We obsess about our booth setup, our marketing collateral, and even our clothes (I wish I were kidding here!). We want our look to draw you in and make you interested, so that we have the opportunity to get to know you better and tell you more about us. And before we’re even on our way back home, we’re planning tweaks for next time.

You are nervous you’ll say something stupid and turn them off

It turns out that Mr. Hairstylist’s-Son really is quite the catch. Lucky you! Your nerves now kick into overdrive as you try to say just the right things to let him know how funny, charming, smart, and wonderful you are. You know if you can just get him to see the real, amazing essence of you, he’ll be head over heels in no time – or at least interested in a second date.

When we are chatting with you at a conference, this is the feeling we get when we sense that we are a good fit for you. We want you to know all the great things we can do so that you’ll be interested in a “second date” with us. At this point, we think we’d be a good fit for you, and we want you to think so, too!

You are thrilled when they smile and ask to see you again

You and Mr. Hairstylist’s-Son finish up a great night, and you’re absolutely thrilled when he asks to see you again. Success! You float happily off home, already planning what is sure to be the next thrilling evening on your road to happiness together.

At a conference, the equivalent moment is when you tell us you’re interested in hearing more about us. “Yes!” we think, “Can’t wait!”

As we all know, blind dates don’t always go so swimmingly, and likewise, not everyone we met at the conference was a great candidate for a “second date” with us. However, we were thrilled by those folks we spoke with at AFP who liked our unique qualities – our engagement-focused approach, built-in best practices, and simple interface. And we can’t wait to meet more of you out there who just might be our perfect match.

Did we miss you at AFP? Come get to know us at our next webinar!

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Melissa Signorelli
Melissa Signorelli is a Co-Founder of Bloomerang.
Melissa Signorelli

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