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5 Tips For Making the Most Of a Conference

making the most of a conferenceI attended a great conference last week and got some amazing leads and opportunities. Unfortunately, as I worked the event, I saw other attendees who weren’t prepared for making the most of a conference. What could some of them have done better? Let’s look at some ideas.

1. Planning In Advance

When I teach workshops on this topic, I spend lots of time on this part. Too many people pay money and spend a day (or days) at a conference and never plan their goals. No wonder they come back thinking it hadn’t been a good use of that time or money.

Before attending a conference, write down several specific goals. Do you want to meet a specific number of people? Perhaps a workshop will give you continuing education credits? Or maybe you are looking for ideas and best practices? Make sure you write them down and refer back to your goals periodically to ensure you are on track.

2. Business Cards

Bring lots. And I mean lots, like 50 for each each day of the conference. Then there’s no chance you’ll run out and look unprofessional.

I spoke to several people that day who should have read this blog post because they came to a conference without business cards.

If you are a vendor, remember to bring materials for your table in addition to business cards. I spoke with one poor vendor who did have business cards but nothing else. Her table stood out as the barest one in the room. That’s not my first recommendation for how to stand out in a vendor area.

3. Listen and Ask Questions

This is a common theme when I talk about networking, and it’s true here too. The more you listen when you talk to people, the more everyone will get from the interaction. Maybe you can help someone meet his conference goal. Or you can make some connections. Being a good listener will make you memorable and easier to follow up with in the future.

Sometimes those conversations spill over and lead to other connections. I was answering one vendor’s questions about social media, and another vendor came over and asked for my card to follow up and get a proposal for social media consulting. Score!

4. Introvert or Extrovert?

I got some laughs from this one when I teach workshops, but it’s important. Introverts make better listeners, so you’ll do that piece well, but we introverts get tired easily in crowds, so we have to remember to schedule time to recharge alone.

Extroverts have plenty of energy and feed off being in a crowd. But you aren’t as good at listening, and you might flit from conversation to conversation, gathering cards but not starting any meaningful relationships. Remember to take a deep breath every so often and remind yourself to listen.

5. Follow Up

Of course you know you need to follow up, but do you schedule time to do it? I recommend you clear your calendar for the morning after the conference. Give yourself time to categorize business cards, prioritize follow up and then actually do it.

It will take longer than you think. At a minimum, I’d suggest blocking out two hours. It was lucky I had scheduled time because one of the connections I made was having a meeting the next day to discuss speakers for an upcoming conference. I made sure to send him the information he had asked for first thing the following day. If I had waited, I might not have been selected.

Those are my conference tips. Anyone else have any good ones to add to the list?