Conferences are becoming more popular, so more and more people are going to then. Whether it’s training, networking or something fun, you always want to be prepared.
Before You Get There
Not only do I plan conferences, I attend a lot of conferences to promote the ones I am organizing as well. I would not say I am a pro, but I do have a few tips on how you can be prepared before you get there:
- Know who you want to talk to. If you can, try get a list of the people that are registered for the conference you are going to. Go through and highlight the people you really need to talk to or meet with. That way you already know what materials you need to take with you if you need any.
- Take lots of business cards. This is everyone’s biggest mistake. People always run out of business cards at meetings. If the event is big, take a few hundred cards. You never want to be the person that can’t enter the iPad mini giveaway because you don’t have enough cards.
- Dress appropriately. Be sure you check before you leave what the dress code for the event is. Many conferences are business casual but some are leaning more towards casual. You don’t want to stick out and be under dressed.
- Be on time. Don’t be late. If you have to travel, leave a day early if possible. People are always arriving a day or two early for events so you are bound to run into someone you wanted to meet with.
- Have all of your materials ready. If you have promotional materials, don’t be working on them on the plane. Have them printed, ready and packed in your bag before you leave. And make sure you always have them with you!
When You Are There
When you are at a conference/event, there is a lot going on, it can be hard to take it all in. Here are few things I usually do to make sure I get the most out of my time:
- Schedule side meetings. This is a huge benefit of conferences, and something I use as a selling point for my events. You have the chance to have an off the books meeting with someone you might not otherwise. Take advantage of those opportunities. Most people don’t attend every single session at a conference so you can almost always find a time that works for both of you.
- Only go to sessions that interest you or apply to you. I know that some people would disagree with me on this, but if you don’t need/want to be in a session, spend that time out in the lobby or in the exhibition space. This is a great time to have one on one meetings and get to know other people in your industry without feeling rushed.
- Don’t be shy. The worst thing you can do at a conference is to not talk to other people. At the first big event I did, I had someone complain to me that they felt like the people in attendance where rude and excluding him. After I received the comment, I watched the man during breaks to see what his behavior was life. He was either standing in a corner on his phone or outside smoking. His body language gave off a “don’t talk to me”vibe and he stayed away from other people. Of course he felt like he was excluded. The problem was, he was doing it to himself.
- Pick up as many business cards as you can. This is a great way to get contacts for people that you keep missing or wont’ talk to you. If there is an exhibition, grab every card you can. You will use them to follow up later.
- Enter the giveaways. Every conference has some kind of giveaway. Remember all of those business cards you packed? This is one of the places you will be using them. I have won a few things in the past, its usually worth it!
- Take lots of notes. Either in or out of a session, take tons of notes. If a notebook works best for you, use that. I usually write notes about conversations I have with people in the Notes section of my phone.
- Don’t take every piece of SWAG. I don’t know why, but some companies still bring terrible SWAG to conferences. No, I don’t want a stress ball with your logo on it, I have 10 already! Only take items you know you or someone you know will use. Otherwise you end up with a box of crap next to your desk that ends up accumulating dust and in the trash.
When You Get Back
This is the most important part of any event. After you have evaluated how the event went and what you got out if it, do the following:
- Follow up with EVERYONE you met. This sounds kind of creepy but its a good idea. You need to remind people of who you are. You meet hundreds of people at conferences so it is easy to forgot a few. Just send a quick email, saying that it was nice to meet them and you look forward to getting to know them/doing business with them. If you have a legitimate reason to email them, be sure to add something about how nice it was to meet at the conference.
- Respond to other people’s emails. Don’t let other people’s follow up emails just sit in your inbox. It can be tedious to go through and respond to every one but you want people to respond to your emails to. Treat others how you want to be treated.
- Write down your thoughts. I have a notebook where I write down my thoughts about every event I have done and every event I have been to. Mostly because I write down the things that went wrong, the things that went well and anything that could be improved. I use this to make my next event as amazing as possible.