3 rules to attending a conference.
Conferences, we've all been to one. They are exhausting, fun, and required.
Getting the most out of a conference can be hard with all the distractions.
Follow our 3 rules to make your next conference a success!
1. Make goals
Before going to the conference decide what you’re hoping to achieve. Most people attend conferences to network, hear latest industry news, or learn about new products. If your goal is to learn, visit the conference website, check what companies are attending, and see what company would provide that information. It’s easy to get swept up in conference excitement so visit these companies first.
If there’s a particular company you want to see research beforehand so you can ask them specific questions. Not having to recite the same ‘who we are’ speech is refreshing for vendors. Thought out questions will also show you’re not the average attendee. You never know what leaving an impression could do. This person might be a future resource.
If your goal is to network come up with a networking strategy.
2. Define your networking strategy
Before the conference
If there’s a particular person you’re looking to connect with pre-introduce yourself. Find them on LinkedIn, FaceBook or Twitter and send a message. Let them know you’ll be attending and you hope to meet. You might even make plans to meet at the event. Pre-introducing yourself is the best way to ensure you don’t miss any important connections. Don't rely on a chance-meeting at a bustling conference. Get that connection lined up before going!
During the conference
See a speaker. If you want to meet like-minded people attending a speaker is the perfect start. Go a little early, get a seat, and introduce yourself to those around you. Meeting people before the presentation will reveal who is better for networking. Attending the same speaker gives you plenty of material to chat about. Exchange contact info and maybe make plans for an after-party. Easy new connections.
Touch base with people you know. Conferences are a great way to maintain your present connections. Networking isn’t just about building new connections it’s also about maintaining and strengthening current ones. Your existing connections could introduce you to new connections. Just be careful not to spend all your time with current contacts if your goal is to make new ones.
Talk less and listen more. People love to talk about themselves and it's a great way to connect. When you meet new people ask thoughtful, meaningful, and smart questions but really listen to the answers. You never know what you’re going to learn from someone else.
The hallway is an underrated meeting place. Away from the busy trade show floor people aren’t nearly as preoccupied in the hallway. Look at body language and find people who seem inviting. Introduce yourself, look for commonality, and when in a group make sure you add conversation. Being at the same conference gives you plenty of discussion material. Don't be afraid of talking to strangers! That's why they're there too. Grab contact info for anyone you want to follow up with.
After the conference
Take all the business cards you've collected and followup with everyone in the same day! The longer you wait the less impact your follow-up has. If you discussed doing business, it would be a good idea to follow up again in a few weeks. Add these people on a social media platform. LinkedIn is probably most appropriate but any will do. Adding a person to a social platform means never worrying about losing contact info and it’s an easy way to update.
3. Stop the distractions
If you’re constantly on your phone, tweeting or texting, you aren’t paying attention to what’s going on. Say you’re attending a presentation and while the speaker is delivering their message you’re live tweeting facts. Instead of hearing the big picture you’re picking up fractured pieces. Focus on the speaker and their message. When you pay attention you’ll be better prepared to discuss the material with other attendees. Also, you went to the speaker for a reason don’t you want to know what they have say?
One of the worst things you can do (in or out of a conference) is be on your phone while people are talking. You're not leaving a good impression being on your phone when there's a discussion happening. This is not the way to network. In order to build new connections you need to give people your attention. Being on your phone indicates you aren’t interested in talking. This shuts down any networking immediately. No one wants to interrupt someone on their phone. Keep your phone in your pocket and pay attention!
3 questions to ask yourself before attending a conference:
- Why am I going?
- Who do I hope to meet?
- What do I want to gain?
Answer these questions and let the answers guide you. Come prepared, have fun, and you can turn any conference in to a success!