Summer is over and most of America is returning back to the full time grind of working 40 hours a week and with that an abundance of meeting summaries, travel itineraries and maybe a few hours of overtime. On top of the 9-5 tasks, we may need to attend a few conferences and most of them between the months of September – November. Of course we all think “Yes! I don’t have to be in the office, I get to chat with awesome people, go out to dinner, etc.” But we all know once we are back in the office, we will have to report on what we got out of the conference, besides 5lbs of stale pastries from the breakfast buffet.
To help prepare you for conference season, here are 5 Tips to Successfully Attend a Conference:
1. Create a Schedule
A week or two before the conference, look at the speaker list and session schedule. Decide which sessions you want to attend and create an itinerary for yourself so you don’t miss anything really important. Research the people you’d most like to meet and spend time with, and then reach out via email, Twitter or LinkedIn. Set up a 10-15 minute meeting over coffee or a drink. By showing your friendship first, you’ll be in the door ahead of time and you won’t have to scramble to get their attention once at the conference.
2. Research the Attendees
It’s important to know who your fellow attendees will be and what their specializations, business, or expertise is. This includes the people who will be presenting at the conference. Take time to visit the speakers’ websites, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles to learn about them. Researching their companies’ background as well as their professional background will help you spark a conversation worth having. Watch this video on how to approaching influencers for more advice.
Plus, if you are star struck by some of the speakers, knowing a little bit about them (like their first job at a startup) may make the conversation more candid and memorable.
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3. Business Cards – Are Everything
If you don’t have business cards, it’s time to get some. At the bare minimum, make sure the cards have your name, email address and phone number, and the name of your company or your occupation. Passing out business cards is an effective way to give out your contact information. Even if the initial conversation did not amount to anything, once they get back to their office you may end up getting a phone call.
More important than bringing your business cards is remembering to collect them. Be in control of who you connect with – collecting cards from the people you most want to stay in touch with. Ask each person you meet for his/her card. There’s nothing worse than having a great conversation with someone only to realize you lost their card and don’t remember their name. When you get a chance, follow up and connect with them on LinkedIn at the very least.
4. Make an Impression
Practice what you’re going to say at home, so you make sure to include all important information. Limit your introduction to around 30 seconds, during which you say your name, who you work for and a bit about your background. Ask people meaningful questions and really hear them out. A good networker is a good listener. Limit your own talking and encourage the other person to talk. Whatever you do, no matter how excited or enamored of this person’s expertise or importance you are, don’t jump to conclusions about what he or she will say next and try to fill it in. And dress to impress. Check out the conference website to get a sense of what you should wear. You should aim to look polished and stylish, and if you have the personality for it, wear a louder accessory (like a bright yellow scarf or bright blue shoes) to make yourself a little more memorable.
5. Continue Networking Afterwards
Networking is critical when it comes to event conferences. But messing up all that good work you did during the event but not following through after? Don’t wait too long after the conference to reach out to people while your conversations are still fresh in your minds. That said, you should wait at least a day before shooting off an email. If you can, send a relevant article to the topic they shared. This will show that you have an avid interest in the topic and that you’re willing to share information with them. If possible, connect the person with other people you know personally or met at the conference. Connecting through LinkedIn and Twitter will help with casual conversations, share information and connections generously, as this will wind up benefiting you later. Check out this video about following up after the conference.
Above all else, when you attend a conference, have concrete goals in mind. If you follow these simple tips, you’ll get more out of each conference you attend. Want to try them out? Register for Boston’s next conference, Inbound Marketing Summit coming this November.