Conferences can be exhilarating and tiring but if you do a bit of planning ahead, you just might survive. Here are 9 tips to help you survive your next conference!
- Register early. Ideally, pick up your registration package the day before. If you can’t do that, arrive a little bit early so you can review the conference program uninterrupted. Go through every talk in the program and figure out which ones you MUST attend and which ones would be nice to attend. Make a clear note of which room you intend to be in during each track of the day. Why? Because when you are interrupted between sessions (and you will be!), you’ll know exactly whether it’s a good time to stay and chat or whether you ought to quickly scoot to a different room.
- Wifi passwords. While you’re registering, ask about the event password right away. If there isn’t one, make alternate plans. Most venues offer free wifi in the main lobby, and some offer wifi in your room so figure out if and when you’ll duck out to tweet, upload blog posts, or check your emails.
- Name yourself. Check your name tag and make any necessary additions. If the back of the name tag is blank, write your name there. Write in your Twitter name. Write in your second company name. And, tuck several of your own business cards into the name tag pocket so you’re always prepared.
- Visit late. Plan to visit the vendors during the second half of the event. Most people do their visits during the first half which means it’s difficult for vendors to hear over the noise and ruckus of all the other booth visitors. If you can be patient, they’ll have much more time to answer your questions with care and without people bumping into you the entire time.
- Take notes. After you listen to each talk, make a point to make a note in your program. Specifically indicate whether someone reviewed a methodology that interested you, whether they could be a potential client or vendor, or whether they seemed like a generally nice person you’d like to chat with. Because, as before, when you get interrupted along the way, you’ll have a perfect list of people to follow up with. Maybe not at the conference, but definitely afterwards.
- Lurk. Even if you never tweet or rarely post anything on LinkedIn, if you have accounts on those platforms, keep your eyes on the hashtag. Oftentimes, you’ll discover some interesting sidebars and you’ll be able to listen to other points of view on the speaker you’re watching at that moment.
- Network. Don’t sit with your colleagues at meals. Deliberately sit at tables where no one seems to know anyone else. People expect you to do this so you truly aren’t interrupting a private conversation. Rather than bumping through people in the exhibition hall, this is a great way to meet new people in a casual way. Further, if you see a ‘famous’ person you admire, go and talk to them without hesitation. They’ll be happy to make your acquaintance even if they are too busy for a long conversation.
- Pack light. Don’t waste space in your suitcases with swimming attire even if the pool looks awesome. Every hotel, every city, and many of your neighbours have pools. You won’t have time for swimming and you’ll need that suitcase space to bring home tchotchkes for the kids and marketing materials for your colleagues. (this note is null and void if the hotel is on the beach!)
- Follow up. Once you’ve returned home, find all the business cards you’ve accumulated and get out the conference program. Send a quick note of thank you and appreciation to each of the speakers who inspired you. Speaking can be nerve wracking and even a short note is encouragement for a speaker to take the plunge again. Follow up with any vendors and potential partners – you know they’re anxious to hear from you!
On your mark, get set, go!