Attending conferences might be an equal balance of fun and work, but here are a few things to remember if you want to make the most out of any event.
I have forgotten one or more of these at nearly every conference I have attended, and it always leads to a missed opportunity, so creating a checklist of these points is always a good idea before packing up and heading out.
Even if you only be promoting yourself and not the company you work for, having business cards with some key details can mean the difference between being contacted, and being forgotten about. You can pick them up relatively cheaply from a variety of online and offline businesses, and so there is almost no excuse to be without them.
In that same vein, make sure you have enough business cards for the event you are attending. The most I have ever given out is twenty-five per day at a three day event. Had I not brought over one hundred cards with me, I might have had to hoard my business cards, and be selective to whom I gave them out to.
This happened to me at Blog World Expo, where I thought I had packed many cards, but ended up with only twelve once I arrived in Las Vegas. It was frustrating, to say the least.
Get to Know the Key Players
Look at the speakers and attendees list, and decide who you would love to meet. Make a list, and do some basic research on them. Who are they? What do they look like, and what do you have in common with them?
While this type of information will put you on an uneven playing field when it comes to introducing yourself to them, it will make you seem much more interested, and more able to quickly build a relationship with them that goes much deeper than the random handshake in the hall.
Keep People in the Loop on Where You are Going to Be
One of the worst things for many people was trying to find ways to reconnect later on during the event. We all went off our separate ways without creating solid schedule on when to meet back up, and without trading cell phone numbers, or agreeing to another way to contact each other, we didn’t end up meeting up and enjoying more time with each other after the daily conference events were over.
While I don’t suggest being obsessive about such things, trading cell phone numbers can be a great way to organize a meeting later on.
Find Out About Events Happening Before/After the Conference
Many of the after parties are set in motion long before the conference starts, and making sure to find out about them can mean the difference between getting in, and waiting in line, as some after party venues fill up fast, and if you aren’t one of the early people to find out about it, you’ll find yourself waiting outside or having to head back to the hotel early.
Don’t Cling to the Familiar
Hanging around with someone you already know can be fun and more comfortable, but it can limit your ability to meet new people. Those that might want to talk to you are less likely to do so if they see you are already engaged in a conversation with someone else, and if that conversation runs through the whole conference, they might never make their move and interject. This means a loss in networking opportunities, and reduces the value of the conference in many ways.
Strike out on your own and meet new people, or split up, and each bring back someone new to the conversation. Optimize your ability to network with other people, as that is most likely why you are there.
Keep a Drink on Hand
I don’t mean alcohol, but having a drink on hand can help you keep talking when your throat gets dry or keep you from suffering the symptoms of dehydration. The excitement of conferences can sometimes be a distraction from the other things we need to do, and especially if the event is being held somewhere hot, you will want to keep hydrated.
Schedule Which Sessions You Want to See
Having a good idea of which sessions you might want to see at a conference can help you pre-plan your time, and also make certain that you get to see the things that you want while at any event.
While this might change once you arrive at the conference, it is a good benchmark of how useful the speakers topics will be for you. I avoided a conference because I couldn’t find more than two sessions that interested me in the two day event.
On the flip side, I sometimes have conflicts due to wanting to see more than one panel at any one time, and that can make it both difficult, and interesting to plan your time.
Leave Free Time for Networking
In addition to scheduling where you want to be and what you want to see, I recommend leaving some vacant time to spend networking with people. While sometimes it can’t be forced, making sure to dedicate some time to meeting people is never a bad thing.
You might want to schedule meetings with people, or just hang out in the hallways as many of the conferences I have attended included a great number of people having amazing conversations in the halls.
Conferences can be a great time, and it can be easy to forget your reasons for attending, but with a little preparation, you can make your time at the event much more worthwhile. Forget to plan, and you might miss out on a variety of great opportunities, both for your business and yourself.
What tips do you have for people attending conferences?