6.5 Tips for Conference Success

As our team prepares for another busy conference season we were reminded of how daunting the events can be. Large crowds, jam-packed schedules, and a wide variety of businesses in attendance can make even the most seasoned conference attendee feel overwhelmed. Here are 6 tips on how to make the most of your time at a conference, no matter your experience level.

1.      Make a Game Plan

Before leaving for the conference, write down a few goals for the trip. Research the different sessions and exhibitors that will be in attendance and decide what you will attend based on how it helps you achieve your goals.

When writing your goals and making your schedule, remember to be realistic! Leave empty spots in your day for stress relieving breaks or impromptu networking opportunities. Know what your company can actually implement and change without being overwhelmed. You might come back from the conference with 100 ideas and only implement one. Don’t think of the conference as a waste: Sometimes small attitude changes or process changes can be just as helpful as big changes.

2.      Strategize Your Session Schedule

If you are going to the conference in a team or with other people from your company, divide and conquer. Based on each person’s interest and department needs, divide up the sessions you attend to make sure you are gathering as much information as you can.

If you are the only one from your company attending, use this as an opportunity to make friends. When you meet and network with people, ask them what sessions they plan to attend. If there is one they are attending that you wanted to but can’t, offer to exchange notes with them on a session they wish they could attend.

3.      Take Notes

During the conference, write down any ideas you have and make notes from each session you attend. You’ll want to make sure to do this at least once a day so the information is fresh in your mind. Make sure to highlight or separate action items so you remember to start on them when you return home.

After each session, review your notes and pull out one main takeaway. Ask yourself what stood out in the presentation. Was there a specific tip that seemed the most helpful, any advice that resonated with you, or anything new you learned? This will help you use what you learned in the sessions by making things simple to remember.

4.      Do Your Own Thing

Don’t feel pressured to follow the planned schedule of events. Sometimes the biggest value of a conference is not in the sessions, but in the people you meet. With that in mind, customize your schedule to make the conference serve your needs. If you are in a great conversation but it’s time for a session, don’t be afraid to continue your networking in lieu of attending the session. You can always get notes later (see Tip #3)!

5.      Network Smart

Sort the business cards you receive as you are given them. Make two groups, one of people you agreed to follow up with or send something to and one of people who simply would be good contact to have. Write notes on each card about who they are, how you met, or the specific follow up action you need to do for them. If someone does not fit into either one of those categories, get rid of the card (just not in front of them!). There is no reason to keep a card if you will not speak with them, it will only add clutter. If you are unsure, keep the business card in a separate pile to re-evaluate later.

6.      Explore!

Try and take advantage of the conference location. Even if you can’t swing a few extra days for a mini vacation, you can still experience what the city has to offer.

When eating out with your new contacts, avoid going to chain restaurants you can find back home. Instead, opt for local favorites or places that serve the city’s signature dishes (for example, gumbo in New Orleans or barbeque in Texas). In your free time go sightseeing or do your own exploring. You could even organize a group of fellow conference attendees and do some networking while you have fun.

Bonus: Packing Tips!

–          Bring comfortable shoes—You will be standing and walking around all day for multiple days in a row. Comfort over style is important!

–          Pack portable snacks—Conference days are long and some days there isn’t time for lunch, especially if you are an exhibitor. Carry protein bars and snack packs with you during the day to make sure you are at your best.

–          Networking supplies—It seems like a no-brainer, but make sure you have plenty of business cards and some pens and notebooks. While you won’t be handing business cards to absolutely everyone you meet, it is essential you have enough for the people you want to share with. Plus, nothing is worse than starting a session only to realize you are on your last piece of paper or are running out of ink. If you take notes on an iPad or other electronic tablet, make sure to always carry your charger and an extra stylus.

–          A few business materials—Having a few business brochures or product flyers with you could come in handy. If someone is particularly interested in your products or business, you will look professional and prepared if you can tell them, “I have a brochure up in my room, let’s meet tomorrow to talk about it.”

–          Leave a little room—If you have been to a conference before, you know the amount of free items you accumulate over the course of the show. There are pens, shirts, cups, and just about anything else you can put a logo on. Think ahead and leave some room in your luggage to take it all back with you.

 

Use these tips to make your next trade show experience a success. Also make sure to say hello to IMN at these upcoming conferences!

 

Direct Selling:

Companies in Focus

March 4 & 5, 2014

Salt Lake City, UT

Direct Selling Symposium

March 20-22, 2014

Salt Lake City, UT

 

Automotive:

BMW National After Sales Conference

March 11-13, 2014

Las Vegas, NV

Booth # 506

Financial Services:

CUNA Marketing

March 12-15, 2014

Orlando, FL

Booth # 212

 

 

 

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