If you’re a well-seasoned event pro, you’re probably no stranger to the annual The Special Event conference. (Note: TSE 2019 runs Jan. 8-10 in San Diego.)
Conference veterans know the value of attending and even more so, the value of prepping for an educational trip. As is the case for other business-related trips, your prepping process can’t be a last-minute effort, and you need to take into consideration how you’ll be leaving your business and what kind of communication you’ll encounter with other industry attendees.
1. Leave your business in good hands.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but for those of us who own a business, it’s impossible to leave without a plan in place. In addition, it’s comical and unrealistic to assume that you can shoulder all of the work while you’re out of the office. Having internet access isn’t enough, unfortunately. You want to be able to fully immerse yourself in the conference’s education and networking opportunities without being handcuffed to your phone and constantly keeping tabs on your office.
How to cope? Start with an out-of-office automatic email reply so that everyone contacting you will know that you aren’t readily available to respond. Ideally, you’ll want to leave a point of contact while you’re away, preferably a team member whom you trust and who knows the day-to-day process. This isn’t to say that you aren’t allowed to check emails and pop in for updates, but in the event that time-sensitive matters crop up, you know that you’ll be covered.
2. Make a packing list and check it twice.
Packing for a few days in another city goes beyond the normal vacation mind-set. Outline which events you’ll be attending outside of the conference so you can pack a few extra outfits to suit cocktail attire, gala, etc. Business casual might not cut it for every event! Added note for the ladies: Flat shoes will be your savior for comfortable walking and longevity through the day. And please: Bring extra chargers for every device you have.
Kevin Dennis of Fantasy Sound Event Services strongly advises to double-check your supply of business cards before leaving. “You don’t want to be caught without them, especially if that one connection is your key to a new client,” he says. “I also reach out to my friends across the country to see who is attending; that way, I can plan out in advance who I want to connect with.”
3. Maximize your experience while you’re there.
Whether you’ll be speaking at TSE or not, you’ll want to take advantage of every cocktail hour and session that you can, especially in a city as beautiful as San Diego. The point is to continue your education, so map out your plan of attack ahead of time. Dennis underlines the value of using the conference hashtag--#TSE2019--for this reason, adding that “it will definitely increase your social presence!”
Meryl Snow, owner of Snowstorm Solutions, suggests going over the conference schedule in particular. “Highlight all sessions you’d like to attend, and select alternate choices in case the content isn’t what you expected. Schedule them in your calendar, and don’t be afraid to utilize the Notes app on your iPhone for each session to serve as a quick summary for takeaways and priority information.”
As a TSE speaker, Snow also notes the importance of prepping her presentation content by sending surveys throughout the year to gather feedback on what current industry challenges are in order to address them in her session.
Attending TSE is an amazing way to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to industry news and trends, and arriving prepared and organized is always a plus. You never know what can come of a conference, whether it’s a new business contact or a new client!
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.