Conference season is upon us. Convention halls from Las Vegas to Tampa and Phoenix to Chicago are booked for conferences on every conceivable topic. Attending a conference is a great way to network and build your business but it can also be overwhelming and so a little preparation is necessary. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of conferences.
The first step to getting the most out of your conference experience is advanced preparation. There are a few things that you can do prior to getting on the plane that will ensure you get the most out of your upcoming conference.
Most of today’s major conferences will publish a full conference agenda and calendar well in advance of the start date. Set aside an hour or two to go through the entire agenda and determine which keynote sessions, workshops, concurrent breakout sessions, and special events you’d like to attend. Add all of the events to your personal calendar so that you won’t miss out on a session you’d like to attend.
Once you have a general idea of what your plan of action will be, now is the time to start searching for non-official events that cater to conference goers. These events often include sightseeing tours, golf tournaments, and other social events.
Due to their more social nature, extra curricular activities such as these are often discussed in the various social media outlets. Look for a conference hashtag on Twitter or search for a Facebook page with more details on these external events.
Take the time to network with others in your field that are also planning to attend both the conference and the additional social events. The connections you make before the conference can be solidified with a face-to-face meeting once the event gets underway.
Depending on the conference size, you could potentially go through hundreds, if not thousands, of business cards. Check out your supply of business cards well in advance of the event and if needed get more cards ordered as soon as possible.
Don’t forget to check out applications available for today’s popular smart phones, like Bump for the iPhone, that allow you to quickly exchange contact details. This not only saves money on business card printing but the programs also allow you to easily share your newly acquired contacts with others in your business as well as among your various electronic devices.
At the conference
Now that you’ve finished your advanced preparation and have actually arrived at the conference, there are still a few more tips to keep in mind to maximize your conference-going experience. First things first, be flexible. Although you’ve gone through the agenda and have your days planned out, be open to deviating from your schedule to take advantage of impromptu networking opportunities. Sometimes the best networking events take place in between sessions, in the hotel hallways, or even while waiting for a cab.
In addition to being flexible, you also want to take time to both reconnect with people you’ve met at previous conference or industry events as well as get that important face-to-face time with those that you virtually reached out to prior to the conference. Although you may find yourself busier than you expected, try to take the time out to meet and network with as many people as possible as this will make your conference experience more fulfilling.
These are just a few important tips for getting the most out of conferences. If you can plan ahead yet remain flexible to embrace last minute opportunities you will guarantee yourself an enriching conference going experience.
What are your favorite tips for getting the most out of conferences?