September 2015

Seven Tips to Win Conference Season

Monday, September 14, 2015  by Travis Barker

Conference season is here. Your travel plans may be a flight across country, or a quick drive to the nearest city. You may be staying in a crowded hotel, or might be fortunate enough to sleep in your own bed. No matter what your agenda, you want to get the most out of your conference. Below is just how you can do that.

1) Do your homework. Like it or not, you need to do your research in advance of the conference. It won’t take too long to find out who is speaking, who the exhibitors are, or if you have any business contacts that will be there. This will allow you to make some plans and ensure you have goals set for hearing the best topics and networking with those that are important to your organization. Most conferences list speakers and exhibitors on their website. Social media is a great way to see who else is attending.

2) Everything in moderation. Most conferences have too much food for you to eat. Some even have the alcohol freely flowing. Moderation is key to make sure you are on top of your game. After all, you are representing your organization and are looking to make a good impression. Sure, the three course lunch may look appetizing, but do you really want to be fighting off a food coma the rest of the day? It would be best to skip the dessert or leave some food on your plate. When it comes to the cocktail reception, it is wise to stick to the club soda or diet coke. You can still enjoy the reception without having that lampshade on your head.

3) Rise and Shine! Wake up early each day of the conference. Hit the gym for 20 minutes first thing in the morning to get your blood flowing. Have a healthy breakfast, pack a snack, and get to the conference early. This is the best time to network before the tired masses arrive. If you paid attention to tip #2 above, you should have no problem being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to make the most of your time at the conference.

4) Network smart. If you did your homework (tip #1) you should already have people and organizations in your sights to connect with. As for everyone else that is in attendance, keep your eyes and ears open and don’t shy away from a quick conversation. It is important to listen carefully when others are speaking as they may be able to help your organization (or more importantly, you could help theirs). Once you identify an opportunity, ask to follow up with them in a few days and be sure to take notes on their business card after your conversation is over. This will help you to better remember the information later. Speaking of business cards…

5) Be frugal with your business cards. Yes, they are inexpensive. Yes, your company gave you a new box of 500 business cards before the conference. Yes, we can see your fancy new logo. This still does not make it okay to hand a card to everyone you pass. Think of a reasonable number of new contacts that you want to make during the conference. Do you have that number in mind? Good. Now cut that number in half. That’s how many business cards you will take with you.

6) Be memorable. In a good way of course! Go beyond the normal conference chit chat and be someone that people won’t soon forget.  Organize a quick but fun group outing somewhere nearby. Is there a walking tour in the city? Does a local restaurant brag about having the best BBQ this side of the Mississippi? Are the views from the top of a certain skyscraper not to be missed? Make the plan by setting up the time and place to meet, and then start to invite other conference goers. Most people would appreciate a chance to step away from the hotel (and maybe their coworkers) to enjoy some local flavor and continue networking in a more relaxed setting.

7) Enjoy yourself! We have all seen those conference goers that would rather be anywhere else. Maybe they didn’t pay attention to tip #2 and ran out of steam just as the conference was getting started. Maybe they are constantly checking their work emails. Next time they should just sign up for a webinar. You attended the conference to learn, network, and enjoy yourself. Happiness is contagious after all. People will enjoy talking (and networking) with you if you are smiling and enjoying yourself.

What are your conference tips? Share them in the comments section below.

Written by: Travis Barker BSW, MBA

Director of Business Development, Sales and Marketing

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