For pretty much anyone in the business world conferences are an excellent method for learning industry-specific information, connecting with like-minded individuals, and pursuing networking opportunities. However, as a first-time attendee, you might feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content and people coming your way. We recommend the following tips to get the most out of your conference.
What do you hope to gain from attending this conference; and how can you prioritize your time to make that happen? We suggest reviewing the conference details beforehand to determine which lectures to attend; where everything is located; where to eat or take breaks; which speakers you want to try to meet, and more. By having a game plan when you arrive, you can best take advantage of your time investment.
We also recommend getting connected to the conference’s networking circles before your arrival. This could be joining a Facebook group, following a hashtag, scoping out the other attendees, etc.
When attending a conference, it can be easy to over- or under-pack. Of course, you will need business clothes for the event itself; however, we highly recommend wearing comfortable shoes since there is often much walking involved. You will also need leisure clothes for travel and downtime, in addition to your personal items. In your day bag, we recommend bringing the following:
We highly recommend bringing a power strip too! Power strips are an excellent way to share a power outlet with others courteously, often resulting in a conversation starter!
To attend the conference, you will have to engage in some mode of transportation. If you are lucky, the conference will be in your hometown, and you can simply drive there. Unfortunately, most conferences require attendees to fly in. To travel like a boss, we recommend the following steps:
During the conference, you will meet a wide variety of people who could become excellent assets for your business or simply wonderful friends. We recommend setting up an after-conference meet-up, such as a happy hour or a wine tasting for those within travel distance. You can blast the news to your social channels or conferencing networking groups beforehand, but we recommend handing out the details to the people you meet along the way.
The last thing you want to happen during the middle of a fascinating lecture is to get a call from the office. Before your departure, ensure your business is set up to function without you while you are away. This may be as simple as writing an out-of-office autoresponder for your email, or it could be as complicated as a detailed brief on what to do if XYZ happens.
During your conference, you will be asked, “so what do you do” dozens of times, essentially by every new person you meet. We recommend creating and rehearsing a succinct pitch that quickly and clearly explains what you do, whom you do it for, and perhaps even why! Keep it under 30 seconds, though!
During the event, make sure to take lots of pictures. Not only of the lecturers or the event space but of the people you meet along the way. By taking pictures with people, you not only have a physical reference to put names to faces, but you have an easy way to follow up with someone after the conference when you post pictures; tagging! Just make sure you have their permission to post their picture before you plaster it on your social media.
Speaking of meeting people, we highly recommend having a way to remember the people you meet. Whether you use a recording device or you take notes, remembering someone’s name later goes a long way. You’ll also want to have a method for tracking business cards. We recommend a little file folder to place business cards where you can also jot a quick note on the person.
At the end of the day, you should enjoy this opportunity to learn from experts in the field and engage with like-minded individuals. All the planning in the world shouldn’t take away from having fun and making positive memories!