How to get more value from your industry conference AS AN ATTENDEE
Convention season is fast approaching. What is the next event you are attending? You want to get more value from your industry conference, right? Plan ahead and bring more resources back to your office.
In a previous life, my job was to oversee the communications and events at a national association. Needless to say, life was busy. I traveled every few weeks, and there was no shortage of event-related deadlines to meet. However, I had the unique opportunity to visit many big cities across North America and attend countless conferences, trade shows, and other business related events.
From these and other experiences, I became a seasoned conference delegate and organizer. This article focuses on how you can benefit more as a delegate. It is the first part of a two part series. The second part will focus on how to get more value from your industry conference – that ones that you organize.
How to get more value from your industry conference experience
Your actions can increase its value. Attendees need to take some responsibility for getting more out of an event. Sometimes the most informative, interesting, and provocative times are shared with the people you meet there. Sitting in a one-directional lecture has limited value, and often slide decks or presentation notes are offered later. To get more value, take a closer look around. Check out name tags. Does the job title or organization name draw a similarity to your business or role? Invest some time to get to know others. Talk about the session you attended and what you learned or how the information might help your office. Ask questions to learn about your new contact’s own similar problems or challenges and the solutions that worked for them, or what types of communications tools they use.
- Map your territory ahead of time. Planning your activities in advance will save you time and add more value. If you didn’t have to pre-register to specific sessions, make the list. Review the exhibitor list for trade show floor and highlight the companies you want to visit. Some exhibitors offer appointment times to guarantee a technical person will be on hand, ready to talk to you. If so, get your spot secured. You can also color code your exhibitor preferences, so you can easily navigate the trade show floor in less time.
- Be ready to bounce. So you signed up for a session and within the first 15 minutes you know it is not worth your time. Usually there are concurrent sessions, so have a Plan B session ready. Sit in the back or on an aisle seat for an easy escape.
- Sign up for social activities. Conferences are about meeting people and gaining new ideas. Tap into more resources. Get more social and meet other like minded professionals while you take a city walking tour or play a round of golf.
- Divide and conquer. Too often I have seen coworkers travel together and basically, spend the whole conference time together. This can definitely be fun and rewarding – these trips can become team building exercises. However, conferences are primarily for learning and meeting industry folk. A way to break away from this habit may be to ask every coworker to invite one or two people out to dinner, and have everyone meet in the hotel lobby. This can enable the office clan to stay in a bunch while networking and drawing some new connections.
- Social Media-ize. Most conferences today use Twitter hashtags to connect with delegates during the event. Find and check out your next event’s hashtag to learn what a hot topic is, any updates to the event, or what people are saying. Foursquare and other social media sites can also help you find other delegates or lead you to the highlights of the day. Social media sites can be extremely useful to help you get more value from your industry conference.
- Remember your cards. Bring lots of business cards and be the first to offer your card to someone you meet, and be sure to get theirs in return. Add new contacts to LinkedIn, other social media sites or your address book. Email them upon your return with a brief hello and note something of interest you shared with them or information that relates to your last conversation.
- Prove its value, attend again. Eventually, you will get back to the office and everyone will ask, “How was it?” Don’t give the typical, “it was great, had lots of fun, learned a lot” answer. Tell a story. Be specific. Send an informative email to your boss on how the event aligns with business objectives, scan session notes and make them available to your team or office. You can write a trip report with brief points on what you learned and useful links.
Give a few of these strategies a try at your next event and see the results. Please share this article with your colleagues or others you know who might be interested in adding more value to the events they attend.
-Sandra Hamway, marketing strategist and founder of Infuse Five
Infuse Five is dedicated to helping associations and businesses, across North America and globally. We offer business results through innovative marketing communications strategies without the need to hire a full time senior specialist. Want more smart marketing tips? Subscribe to our e-newsletter.