Insider Tips on How to get the Most out of the Conference
What’s in store for you? You’ll attend numerous sessions led by professionals in your industry, meet a ton of new people, and take home lots of great swag.
Conferences can be very productive and fun or totally overwhelming and a drain. The investment of time, travel and energy required to go to conferences, makes it more important to be prepared before you go so that you’re not scrambling at the last minute or worse yet – while you are there.
The 21st century conference attendee has a lot more technology, social media and content options that can be used to share and highlight their experience and their takeaways. The rule of thumb is:
Below are 11 things to prepare before attending a conference that can help you get the most out of your commitment and experience.
Mindset, Attitude, Energy
It’s important to tie up loose ends, finish tasks, projects and deadlines so that you can go away clear minded and caught up. Whatever can wait until you return - let it wait.
Focus on looking forward to the event, meeting people and being positive and accessible. Read some positive and motivational content and download an app or take some with you.
Your frame of mind and heart can set you up to have an awesome time and be someone awesome to meet. Smile, be pleasant, be polite and show your enjoyment.
Documents, Schedule, Sessions
Gather all your travel documents, airline confirmation numbers and flight itinerary and have it all accessible. Get a good picture of your overall travel needs and experience.
This one’s a no-brainer! Review the agenda through the HSCN website “Program at a Glance” or through the Mobi App that will be forwarded to you just prior to the conference. Set a goal for what you’d like to learn at the conference, and use the agenda to devise a plan specifically tailored to that goal. Make sure to attend conference-wide events like keynote addresses. When it comes to concurrent sessions, consider both the speaker and the subject matter.
In addition, there are apps that offer city guides, things to do and see, restaurants, special events, and connectivity apps to connect you with people and sessions at the conference. These are all very helpful and fairly simple.
Set an out-of-office reply
Let’s be honest: You’ll probably be checking your work email during the conference. But even if you are, you definitely won’t be able to respond at the same clip as you do in the office. Make sure customers know why they might not hear from you for a few days by setting up an out-of-office reply.
Familiarize yourself with the conference space so you don’t get lost. Take a 20 minutes or so the night before or early in the morning on day 1 to walk around the space. Use your Mobi App to see the conference space so that you know where you are going once the events begin.
Meeting Specific People
The whole point of going to an industry related conference is the chance to meet colleagues, speakers or presenters you follow, engage with, and that influence you.
Don’t count on simply running into prospects at the conference. Instead, reach out to them ahead of time to let them know you’ll be in attendance. This way, you can book time on their calendars and have their full, undivided attention instead of trying to cram a 15-minute conversation into a stop-and-chat.
Be confident in your expertise, know their background, current activity, books, so that you can create good conversations. Google people you want to meet, visit their LinkedIn, websites, social media and learn as much as you can about them.
Divide and conquer
If you’re attending with coworkers, try and see as much as possible. If each of you attends the same sessions and events, your company might as well have only sent one of you. Splitting up for sessions will maximize how much you’re able to learn and ensure that each of you has unique insights to take back to your company. Plan to get lunch or dinner each day to regroup on key takeaways.
Flying solo also means you’ll each be able to meet more people. Huge conferences can foster pack mentality, but the more attendees you can meet and speak with, the more of an asset you’ll be to your home team. Discovering how your business fits into the larger industry and how other organizations run their divisions are invaluable insights. A conference is an unparalleled opportunity to pick the brains of your competition and your market. Don’t waste it.
Opening Questions, Conversation Starters, Chit Chat
Prepare some icebreaker questions, or statements that can establish commonality or a personal connection. Is this your first time at this conference? What was your favorite takeaway last year? What’s your biggest accomplishment so far this year?
Social Media Strategy
HSCN has a dedicated hashtag: #hscn2016. During the event, make sure you’re tagging your tweets and Instagrams properly. You can also monitor the hashtag throughout the conference to see what people are talking about. Striking up a conversation online is a great way to reach out to someone you’re interested in meeting but haven’t come across in person.
The conference focus should play into your social media strategy. Use LinkedIn to connect to people you meet. Use HSCN’s to tell people who you have met and share a link to their work or website and to post great pictures and videos of the conference in action and the experience you are having.
Technology, Cords, Batteries
Do a full checklist for all your technology, chargers, cords and batteries and make sure you have everything with you that you need to capture the moment and share it.
Pay attention to battery life on different devices that you use and be sure to recharge them when you see them getting low so you don’t miss capturing anything when the moment arrives.
Postgame: Once You're Home
Take some time to decompress after you arrive home. ... But not too much, because your work’s not finished. The days and weeks after a conference are when you’ll be able to put everything you’ve learned to use and turn your short meet-and-greets into fruitful business partnerships.
Connect with your contacts through email or on LinkedIn with a note about meeting them. If people are in proximity, take the initiative to invite them to meet in person. Check out this guide to writing the perfect LinkedIn invitation for more advice.
The opportunity to meet people in person at major industry conferences is golden. Be prepared, have fun and make the very most of it to make an impression, enhance relationships and create new ones.
The insights you gained at the conference are likely to be useful for your team, so make sure to set aside time to pass on what you learned. Whether it’s leading an in-person session or writing an email or post to document the most valuable information, proactively sharing information will help your colleagues do better work while establishing you as a leader on your team.
There’s no better place than a conference to take stock of the state of your industry and your profession. Make the most of your time, and have fun!