How to Make the Most of Your Conference Meeting
Business Conferences can be an excellent way to boost your career. You’ll meet others in your industry who are as ambitious and like-minded as you, and you’ll learn about trends that are relevant to your business or company.
Deciding what to focus on when you’re there can be daunting, as there are usually more sessions, events, and mixers than your schedule permits. Leaving your personal agenda to chance can cause you to miss out on the most important information that the conference has to offer. If the business meeting center or conference hall is local, scope out the venue ahead of time so that you become familiar with the parking situation, transportation, and restaurants in the area.
Here are a few tips to make the most out of your next conference meeting.
Prepare ahead of time
- Network ahead of time: Check out the attendee list several weeks ahead of time and reach out to those you recognize. Whether they be customers, vendors, or friends, there are likely to be several people you know – or know of – on the list. If you are attending for the first time, you can share ideas of what lectures or sessions to attend. If it’s a repeat conference, you can schedule times to reconnect with people you met the prior year.
- Research the speakers, sessions and workshops: Find out what sessions or events are being planned and categorize them on your calendar according to those you “Can’t Miss”, “Would Like To Attend”, and finally, the “Back-Ups”, just in case something you planned to attend cancels or is overbooked. Leave a little wiggle room for last minute invites, recharging, and downtime, but always stay flexible because you never know what kind of opportunity will pop up!
- Be organized: Make sure you have plenty of business cards on hand, and download an app like CamCard or a similar automated business card scanner to your smart phone. That way, you can scan business cards soon after you receive them and keep those valuable contacts from getting lost. Schedule a follow-up date right then, so you won’t get confused as to who to contact first.
- Be a presenter: Are you a guru in your field? Then why not become a presenter? Stand out from the crowd and attract potential customers – or your next employer – by dazzling them with your expertise.
At the Conference
- Attend the initial ice-breaker: This could set the tone for your entire conference. If you are a first timer, you will meet other newbies who will be more than willing to share their plans of what they have heard are “not to miss” events. They may also be attending with a conference veteran, so if you don’t have a current “guide”, this might be the way to find the scoop on the best things to do. You may even get some free tickets to after hours networking functions or raffle.
- Don’t despair if a session begins to turn out less interesting than you had anticipated. If you find that it’s not relevant to you, or is a snooze-fest in general, slip out the back and attend your “would like to attend” or “back-up” plan event instead. Or, use the time to be a “floater” and pop in on the session that seems the most well-attended. Listen to the crowd’s reactions; often, the session with the most applause and audience response will end up being the show-stopper of the conference.
- Take great notes: Use your phone recorder, have a handy-dandy spiral notebook, tablet or iPad to make sure that you aren’t relying on your memory alone to retain what you’ve learned. And stash an extra charger in your briefcase or laptop bag in case you lose one, or leave it behind at the hotel. Retain and record at least three key takeaways from each meeting you attend.
- Meet the speakers: Make an impression on the people you want to know. The most knowledgeable and influential people there are the ones standing at the podium, so take the time to go up and thank them after each meeting or panel. It’s good business and good manners! Be sure to give them one of your cards – and get one of theirs. Connect with them on LinkedIn, and any other social media they utilize.
- Attend social events: They are for more than just fun, this is where people schmooze, see and be seen. Even the stodgiest executives will let their hair down a bit and be more open to a friendly conversation. Especially if you have strategically done your homework and managed to secure a mutual acquaintance to introduce you. A casual social mixer might be your golden window of opportunity to finally land that big meeting you’ve been after.
- Don’t be shy: This is your chance to meet and greet! Wherever you are, strike up a conversation, you never know who the person standing next to you might be.
- Don’t over drink: Everyone remembers the person who had “one too many” – and you don’t want that person to be you.
After the Conference
Be sure to follow up with the contacts you made at the conference and begin building relationships. Reach out to the speakers who you met to thank them again and ask them well thought-out questions. Send out important tidbits or videos from the event to your coworkers, LinkedIn feed, or Social Media. As an Investment Casting company, Within a week, be sure you have reached out to everyone you met, and schedule a face-to-face meeting with anyone you want to pursue business with.
Finally, be sure that you have significant findings, leads, and contacts to report back to your boss so that you can return to the conference next year! And if you or your company are planning to hold a conference in the Dallas Fort Worth area, be sure to put The Cascades at the Colony Conference Center in The Colony, TX, at the top of your venue list.