Conferences are the bomb. What’s not to love?
Conferences are great for networking, learning, and kickstarting new ideas. They’re educational and entertaining. New Connections! Fresh ideas!
However, in order to benefit from all a conference has to offer, you’ll want to do some work prior to attending.
Follow these guidelines to make the most of your next conference.
Before the Conference
1.Identify your goal.
Being spontaneous is great but not when it comes to attending conferences.
Having no specific goal leaves you wandering around the conference like a headless chicken. Ask yourself questions such as: Why in the world am I attending this conference? Don’t just attend a conference because a big name will be speaking at the event.
For example, attending a conference because Mr Horticulture Expert would be speaking on “Better Homes and Gardens” when you barely have a patch of soil in your home is a waste of time and funds.
2. Update Your Social Profiles.
Before you head off to your event, ensure that your social media profiles have the most updated information, from skills to publications, especially if you’re looking for a new job opportunity.
3. Pack Your Power Source & Pens.
If you would prefer taking notes on a laptop or tablet, start the day with a fully charged battery and don’t forget to carry your charger with you. If you are a traditional paper and pen person like me, remember that you may not always have a table to lean on and should pack something with a hard surface as a backup.
4. Plan Your Wardrobe.
What you wear says a lot about you. Business casual is probably your safest bet. Make sure you have comfortable shoes because you’ll be walking around the venue between sessions and standing during networking opportunities. Conference venues are usually cold so take a blazer or sweater to be safe.
Practice Your Elevator Pitch. You’re going to meet a lot of people in a short period of time so being able to introduce yourself in 30 seconds or less is going to make the process easier.
You Got There Intact…. Now What?
The whole point of the conference is to communicate with people. Build your network. Do not engage in a stand-off with other attendees because neither of you will make the first move. This isn’t a Western – you’re definitely not John Wayne, or Clint Eastwood.
You may want to consider spending some of your time at the event seeking out people whose business is complementary to yours. Don’t be afraid to go up to a famous attendee and introduce yourself, they expect this at a conference.
6. Pace yourself.
No, you are not Superman and you are not made of steel. You cannot attend every session! Pick out handouts of sessions you can’t attend if they clash with another session you attend. To be at your best, schedule breaks and take time to recharge.
7. You will meet A LOT of people.
To help you better remember these individuals, write a brief note on the back of every business card you receive and why you have the card. For example,
Lady in red heels who spilled coffee on me. Works at XYZ company and would be beneficial to ABC project.
Always make the note significant.
After the conference
8. Look out for happy hours
So, you didn’t get to meet the individuals you set out to meet, and each time you tried to start a conversation with another individual your tongue gets tied up. Do not despair, there is always good old Happy Hour. People are usually more approachable when they unwind.
9. Keep notes.
Always write down key points from the conference. This will help you prepare for the next conference and help you remember who you met and which panels you attended.
10. Follow up.
Whether you use LinkedIn to connect with your new contacts or you send a personal email, reach out to the people you’ve just met. Say something about where and how you met the person.
For example, “Hi Dotun, it was great meeting you at the conference last week. Here is my grandma’s Jollof Rice recipe I mentioned”.
11. Implement what you’ve learned.
Start doing something different in your business or the way you work. Teach colleagues what you learnt to build a better team.
We are giving out free tickets to the High Growth Africa Summit! You can get one here.
Feature image via HighGrowthAfrica.com