The slow down from the wedding season signals the start of industry conferences and events. Conferences are a great way to expand your knowledge as well as network with others, but maybe you feel nervous meeting others or don’t know how to determine your outcomes. Fear not, I’ve got your back with tips on how to get the most out of a conference.
What Do You Want to Get Out of the Conference?
The quickest way to throw away money is to attend a conference without formulating a plan of action prior to attending. The way you approach the conference, the breakout sessions you choose, and the people you connect with all depend on your reason for being there. Here are a few objectives for attending a conference:
- Network with industry peers.
- Connect with a specific person or a role model.
- Learn something specific from a topic or instructor.
- Connect with a new supplier or vendor.
- Gain inspiration or see the latest industry trends.
- Be around like-minded people.
- Investing in yourself and your professional growth.
How to Prepare for the Conference
- Review the schedule and pick sessions in advance: Event organizers typically provide a schedule in advance. If there are breakout sessions, select what you want to attend as you’ll likely not have a chance the day the conference starts.
- Be strategic with your time: A session should fulfill either a learning goal or an interpersonal goal, meaning you want to meet or support the person who is presenting.
- Familiarize yourself with the conference: Learn where the breakout sessions take place, where the restrooms are, and where you can grab a snack or beverage. Getting acquainted with the venue in advance can help make sure you don’t arrive late for a session.
- Find out who’s attending: The people who attend conferences can be just as important as the sessions themselves. If you’re there to network, try connecting with people you never see or haven’t met. Don’t rely on running into people at the conference as you may never connect or you’ll run out of time. Try to reach out in advance letting them know you’ll both be attending and you want to schedule a time to meet with them. This way you’re utilizing your time better, and you’ll have their full attention vs. a drive-by meeting in the hall.
What to Bring to the Conference
Here’s a list of things you should be prepared to bring with you:
- Water and snacks: Some conferences will have snacks provided, others will not. You don’t want to rely on a coffee shop nearby as there may not be one. Also, snacks and beverages at an event can get expensive!
- Phone and laptop chargers: You’re likely going to be using your electronic devices quite a bit throughout the day. Avoid running out of power by making sure they’re fully charged and you bring backup batteries or a charger.
- Paper and pen: In case you run out of power or opt not to bring a laptop, be sure to bring plenty of paper and a few pens.
- Business cards: No, business cards are not dead! They’re a handy way to connect with someone during the conference.
- Proper attire: I cannot tell you how many people I see attend conferences like they’re headed to the club. This is not the message you want to send to your peers so be sure to dress appropriately. Business casual is always a safe bet as you want to make sure you’re dressed comfortably as you’ll probably do a bit of walking.
During the Conference
You made it to the conference so what now?
- Remember your goal: Make sure you revisit it or write it down so it’s top of mind and you actually set out to accomplish what you said you would.
- Be present: There may be evening activities that leave you less than excited about waking up early. But remember, you paid money to attend the conference so be sure to actually attend. Turn off or silence your phone and give your full attention.
- Divide and conquer: If you’re attending with someone else, split up the sessions so you can maximize how much you’ll learn. Plan on connecting over lunch or dinner to exchange notes on what was learned.
- Take notes: Don’t trust your memory! Take lots of notes about the speakers and the tips they share.
After the Conference
You arrived home after the conference and you’re wiped out. But in order to get the most out of a conference, you still have some work to do.
- Organize your notes: Take all your doodles on napkins and random pieces of paper and transcribe them into a note-taking program such as Evernote. Capture the things you said you want to do onto your master to-do list (which you can later prioritize).
- Follow up: If you connected with someone during the conference, email them a follow-up that’s appropriately tailored to the conversation you had. Don’t have anything to follow-up on? Send a quick thank-you email instead.
Conferences can be expensive after you factor in the cost to attend, airfare, hotel, and meals. On top of that, they can take up a huge chunk of your precious time. However, they’re a great way to learn, network, and give you a chance to work on your business rather than in it.
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If you need help creating your networking or marketing strategy, let’s meet over a coaching call, or contact me via email or call 619.577.3117 to inquire about customized services for you.