If you’ve made the decision to attend one of this year’s many great conferences, you’re in for quite a treat. While conferences certainly offer a fun experience, they also provide education and networking opportunities for all in attendance.
Whether it’s your first or hundredth time heading to a conference, preparation is key in order to maximize your time spent. Remember: Committing to a conference is an investment in both time and money, so it’s important that you make the most of your experience.
Here are some ways to help you take advantage of your conference time and accomplish what you set out to do.
Map it out
As event professionals, we’re used to staying organized on the business side of things, so it’s important that this carries over into our conference experience. Several weeks before the event date, set aside some time to review the conference website and look through the agenda. Ask yourself what kind of subjects you’d like to learn more about and keep an eye out for must-see speakers so you can plan your itinerary accordingly.
While you may have a minute-by-minute itinerary, there are still a few things you’ll need to have to maximize your experience. Business cards, for example, are a must-have. Here’s a pro tip: When you exchange business cards with something, jot down a note about what you discussed so you can use it in your follow-up. You’ll also want to bring a notebook and pen for educational sessions, as well as a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated (conference days can get long!). Bring sensible shoes to wear, as you’ll most likely be walking a lot, and blisters or sore feet will just get in the way.
Do as much as possible
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s important for you to take in everything that is offered. While you may not be able to take in two sessions at the same time, try to attend all of the bigger activities such as the welcome session, breakouts, and the closing session. Be sure to also visit the trade show floor and do a full run-through, introducing yourself to any booths that catch your eye. While it may be tempting to slip out and grab lunch off-site or duck out for an early bedtime, remember all that you invested in this experience--you can always catch up on sleep when you get home.
Bring your experience home
Even after the last session, don’t think that the conference experience is over. Hopefully, you’ve gained a lot of education and collected many business cards, so there’s plenty to recap once you arrive home. Take some time to go through your notes and determine how your new knowledge can be incorporated into your business. At the same time, be sure to reach out to all of the contacts you made through business cards – a simple email that says it was nice to meet them can suffice!
Conferences and tradeshows are certainly a worthy investment and it’s hard to leave without feeling refreshed and energized by your new knowledge and experiences. With these tips, you’ll be sure to have a wonderful time and work in as much business development as you can while still having fun.
Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, Calif.. Dennis is the current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE and the immediate national president for WIPA.