In the past couple years I have been to more than a hundred conferences and events. I am on the road at least twice a month speaking to groups from a few hundred to a few thousand people, and so I feel like I have this “conference thing” down pat.
I’ve learned a lot of simple things that will help you make the most of attending a conference.
Here is your checklist!
1. Use your calendar. When I am at a conference, I know I have a limited amount of time to meet the people I want to meet and attend the sessions I want to attend, so my calendar on my phone becomes my best friend at events. Everything starts for me with my calendar!
2. View the program ahead of time. Decide which sessions you definitely want to attend and then put those into your schedule.
3. View the speaker list ahead of time. Follow on Twitter some of the key speakers you want to meet or hear speak at the event. If there is a speaker list from the conference organizer, follow that list or create your own. If you create your own, promote that list on Twitter.
4. Decide who you want to meet with at the event. Pick 5-7 people that you know you want to have meetings with – perhaps potential clients, perhaps vendors whose product or service you want to check out – whomever it is – reach out to them before the event and schedule a time. Make sure to set a meeting place and exchange cell phone numbers. Then make sure to put it on your calendar – and send them a calendar reminder so they have it too!
5. Pack lightly. No need to bring every outfit you own. I always say, “everything I pack is one more thing I have to carry” – so pack wisely! Pack things that don’t wrinkle if possible and think in layers. Check the weather ahead of time and pack accordingly.
6. Speaking of packing, pack comfortable shoes. A conference is not the place to break in a new pair of shoes! Now I admit, I may wear one pair of shoes onstage and then change to a comfy pair for the rest of the conference, but that is ok. Bring a couple pairs that are professional, can transition to day or evening and are comfortable!
7. Join any social media groups for the event ahead of time. Before the event, see if there is a Facebook or LinkedIn group for your event. This is a great time to get to get to know people. Make sure you don’t go into these groups to pitch – don’t be “that person!” Use it as an opportunity to meet and network ahead of time.
8. Plan your evenings. Again, plan events in your schedule. I try to attend a few networking events or parties in the evening, but I also plan ahead of time, dinners with friends , colleagues or potential clients. Plan ahead!
9. Bring business cards. I know, I know, I know – so antiquated! But still, business cards are still one of the easiest ways to exchange contact info. And remember, it’s not how many you hand out – it’s how many you come home with!
10. Don’t over plan. I know I started out telling you to use your calendar, but you have to plan in some “down time” – time to walk the exhibit hall, time for conversations that you didn’t expect, or even time for a quick cat nap if needed!
BONUS TIP: Don’t forget all your chargers and cords! My must-have for a conference is my Mophie. I always have it in my bag – charged and ready to go so I’m never stuck with a dead battery and no outlet in site! (Note: Mophie is not a client of mine, I just love their products)
I think going to conferences is one of the best things you can do to gain visibility, expand your network, connect with potential clients and hone your skills.
I have a number of events coming up that I will be at this year – click here to see the complete list! If you are planning an event this year and are looking for a speaker, contact me today to check on my rates and availability!