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11 Tips to Making the Most out of #ICSF

Every summer around late July or early August I get to go to a family reunion of sorts. This annual tradition is where I run into some of my dearest friends; people I have known for years and some friends I am meeting for the first time. This annual reunion of sorts is of course Inman Connect.

I went to my first Inman conference in the summer of 2008. I distinctly remember sitting in the back of the giant general session (I was a marketing manager at the time for a local real estate company.)

I remember sitting next to my boss and next to someone who worked for Google. As the room filled, the lights dimmed and Brad Inman took the stage, I thought to myself, “these are my people!”

Since that fateful first Inman, I then went on to work for Inman for many years and had the pleasure of being behind the scenes and onstage at many Connect conferences. I can tell you that no one truly has any idea how much time, energy, and work goes into putting on a first-class event until you are a part of it yourself.

I remember my first Inman conference in 2010 when I had just started working for Inman. I was six weeks into the job, flew to NYC for the first time, and was working on pure adrenaline. I was tasked with marketing and social media and up until then, it was pretty unheard of to ‘live tweet’ Connect. Ready to push the envelope and to forge ahead, I distinctly remember propping my laptop up on a box backstage, dusting off a dingy stool and popping open my HootSuite and started live tweeting like a mad woman.

And the rest they say is history! The next year is when I helped to create the Inman Ambassador program, and pretty soon it wasn’t just me running around trying to capture every tweet. We had created an incredible community of some of the very best people in real estate, people to this day who are still such dear friends of mine.

It’s now been almost five years since I took the entrepreneurial leap and started my own company and so Inman Connect once again transformed to be an incredible place to meet with clients and to forge new friendships. I get the opportunity to speak all over the country, but there really is no other conference like Connect. Looking over my client roster and the 300+ people who are in our #GetSocialSmart Academy, it makes me smile to think of how many amazing client relationships started over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine at Connect many moons ago.

So, if you are coming to Connect and this is your first time – or maybe it’s your 17th (like mine – holy moly!) – I want to share with you a few tips for making the most out of Connect.

Plan ahead, but don’t over-schedule. Think about the 5-10 people you really want to meet with and try to get those scheduled ahead of time. Get it on your calendar and theirs, get each other’s cell phones to text each other as needed, but get it planned otherwise it may not happen. But, don’t schedule every minute of the day – there is nothing wrong with long stretches of time to meander through the exhibit area, or to wander through the lobby to see who you will find. The best conversations at Connect many times are the ones you didn’t expect to happen.

Be prepared. Look at the program ahead of time. Put in your calendar the must-attend sessions for yourself. Download the mobile app in advance. Bring multiple mobile phone chargers, plugs, and rechargeable batteries because you don’t want to be tethered to your phone plugged into the wall. My personal favorite is still Mophie! I always bring two or three with me to Connect. All that tweeting and scoping and snapping drains your battery!

Look your best. You don’t need designer clothes, but what do you wear that makes you feel like a million bucks? Wear that. Don’t forget comfy shoes. Your feet will thank you at the end of the week when you had a few pairs of comfy shoes that you didn’t mind being in for 12 hours!

Plan to eat or bring snacks. Either plan meals with friends or colleagues or bring snacks to eat something quickly as needed. Don’t forget to hydrate too – water is your friend, especially if you will be on stage!

Get your gear ready. Bring your chargers, bring your devices and however you learn best – bring that. If you are more of a notepad and pen person, bring those. You don’t need to carry everything around – carry what makes the most sense for you to do business as needed, share on social media as needed and learn.

Get your office, team and family ready. When you go to Connect, the best thing you can do is BE THERE. If you have someone who can take over your business for a few days, that is ideal. You don’t want to spend half your time at an event in your email or on the phone with a client. Put your out of office on, prep your family and your team why you are doing this. I can tell you that this alone has made a huge difference!

Don’t just give your card out to everyone. This isn’t a contest to see who collects the most business cards – network strategically and take cards from people you really want to connect with. I still love writing notes on the back of cards as soon as possible so I don’t forget who they are or what we discussed. And as much as I love technology, bringing cards is still a necessity in my opinion – so bring plenty!

Say yes to new opportunities. Someone invites you to a party you hadn’t planned on, say ‘yes.’ Someone invites you to dinner with people who haven’t met yet, say ‘yes.’ Connect is the perfect place to get out of your comfort zone and say ‘yes’ to meeting new people.

Get connected on social media before, during and after Connect. Take part in the Facebook group and follow the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. One of the best ways to feel like you are a part of a big event is to jump into the conversation on social media. If you are new to Connect and don’t know anyone – don’t hesitate to put a message out there that you are new. I know you’ll have lots of veteran attendees welcoming you with open arms.

Get lots of sleep. There are lots of late nights and early mornings, so have fun, but remember why you are there. Be smart and pace yourself. Set that alarm and don’t miss the morning sessions – they are usually the best!

After Connect, follow up right away. On your way home, follow up with people you met right away through social media and/or email. Follow up while it is still fresh in your mind. You will come back with tons of ideas, pick one you can implement right away and do that. The faster you act after Connect, the more your investment of time and money will be worth it.

Ok, so those are my top tips for making the most out of Connect. Did I miss anything?

If you will be at Connect, leave me a comment below, or join us in our Facebook Group here! If you haven’t signed up yet, use the promo code ‘KATIE’ to save $100 off your registration.  I am giving five new presentations this year at Connect – click here to see the complete list of dates/time. See you soon!

Note: I originally published this post last year in 2016, I updated it for this year 2017. Can’t wait to see so many of my Inman friends soon!

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