Our previous blog was written for hosts of a conference, and how they can organise an outstanding conference. In this blog, we will look at conferences from the viewpoint of an attendee. When you are the attendee at a conference, what can you do to get the most out of the conference? Look no further as this blog will provide you with the information you need!
Before the conference
Do your research
Review the agenda before the conference starts. Set a goal for what you would like to learn at the conference and plan your sessions accordingly. Find out more about each guest speaker to decide which sessions you are most interested in attending.
Plan to bring the right gear: remember the chargers for your laptop, phone and other devices. Pack enough business cards and make sure your information is updated. Make sure you have what you need for impromptu demos, but always be sure to read the situation right. Never pitch to people who don’t want to be pitched to!
Not only is a conference a great opportunity to meet and connect with new people, but it is also an opportune time to rekindle old relationships with acquaintances. Reach out to the attendees you already know or those you would like to get to know better and set up a time to catch up over coffee or lunch at the event.
Another opportunity to make use of is the event’s Facebook page or Twitter handle. Use this to track who else is going to the event and if you notice someone you’d like to meet, reach out to them and set up a friendly meeting.
At the conference
Maximise the potential to meet new people
Registering early will help you avoid long queues and free up more of your time to mingle and network with fellow attendees. If the conference has a briefing session scheduled, try to attend this as you are sure to bump into other people who are also perhaps a little uncertain and looking to meet new people.
Plot your schedule
Plan your schedule so that you are able to attend sessions covering a range of topics specific to the learning goals you set for yourself, and schedule a balance of topics to include information sessions, skill-building sessions, and social events. Remember to allow yourself some downtime in-between to make sure you are well-rested and at your best.
If you are traveling with colleagues, plan to attend different sessions to maximise your information gathering and meet up over lunch or dinner to share the key ideas that each of you have learned throughout the day.
Connect with people
Follow up on the different meeting/coffee/lunch invites you extended. If you planned well, these meetings will be with anyone from customers to people you’d like to seek advice from.
At the social events, put away your smartphone to ensure that you are mindful of any conversation you take part in. Don’t hesitate to linger behind after the event has ended. It will likely benefit you more to properly wrap up your conversation than to cut it short to be on time for your next session.
Speaking of staying behind, you can do the same with the guest speakers. They will usually be available after a session for a quick meet and greet, and this is an excellent opportunity to say hello and ask for their business card. If you did not get the chance to ask them questions, you can ask them via social media.
You can participate in the online conversation by monitoring the dedicated hashtag to see what people are talking about. This is also an opportunity to connect with someone you haven’t yet run into.
After the conference
Do your admin
Organise all the information you gathered at the conference as soon as possible once you get back. If you don’t, you are sure to forget where all the business cards, names, numbers and conversation points fit in. Starting to organise all the bits and pieces of information while you’re at the conference will make this process much easier.
Make yourself memorable by sending a personalised follow-up to everyone you met at the conference to let them know you enjoyed meeting them. Not everyone may be as organised and prepared as you are, so be sure to subtly remind them what you talked about or in which session. Set up phone calls or meetings with those you would like to build a closer relationship with.
Spread the knowledge
Make the most of your newfound resources by telling your manager about the interesting new people you’ve met who may hold potential value for your business. Also be sure to share your knowledge with your teammates by offering to do a brief presentation at the next staff meeting, or sending an email with a summary of what you learned. If videos of the speakers are available, you can also share the ones you found most relevant with your colleagues. This can help to establish you as a leader on your team, and your manager will be more likely to approve you for another conference in the future.