Conference Cool: Tips and Tricks for Making Your Next Conference a Success
Approaching a conference can be a little intimidating. While you know there are excellent networking opportunities at any conference, the experience could feel like a mind-boggling blitz of speaking events, chit-chat, and meet-and-greets. How do you make the most out of your conference without feeling frazzled? Read the following tips to ensure your next conference experience is a success!
#1: Prep Before
Spend some time thinking about what you want to get out of the conference. Take a minute in the days before the event to jot down some goals and questions. What do you hope to learn from the sessions? Are there particular groups you want to network with? Consider what you want to discuss with other attendees.
When you’re at the conference, be aware that there could be some awkward moments. To ease the uncomfortable silences after saying hello, have some material ready to go. Be friendly and offer your details–who you are, what company you’re with, why you’ve decided to attend this conference. Keep the conversation rolling with a list of stock questions you can ask anyone you bump into.
You won’t be the only one doing some hard work while networking. Be sure you’ve brought your laptop and mobile phone chargers with you! You’ll be using them to take notes, names, and numbers all day. Don’t get caught with a dead device.
#2 Make Connections
Approach the conference hoping to make purposeful connections, rather than a list of names and numbers. Avoid rushing around trying to pass your business card to every attendee or awe the big guns. It’ll be much more beneficial to establish the base for positive, rewarding business relationships by connecting in an authentic way.
Make your first connection count. Perhaps this person is attending with a group of associates, who they can then connect you with. If they’re alone, the two of you can team up and approach larger groups. Don’t forget tip number one: be prepared with interesting, applicable dialogue.
Breaking into a bigger group is a necessity, but it can be uncomfortable. Stay confident and ease into the conversation by approaching someone solo. Introduce yourself and bring up suitable industry topics. Ask for their opinions, and let the conversation flow naturally.
#3 Making It Social
Take advantage of the wonderful networking opportunities provided by social media. Search conference-related hashtags before the event to get a better idea of the conversation.
When you’re at the conference, check in on Twitter! Use conference hashtags to find other attendees, or to make it easy for them to find you. Note the usernames of tweets you find engaging and be ready to bring up the topics you notice in conversation.
If you’d feel more comfortable in a more formal setting, use LinkedIn to network online with other professionals. LinkedIn gives you a more in-depth look into professional backgrounds, so you are better informed as to who you’d like to network with, what their interests are, and how their experience can be relevant to yours.
#4 Take Note
Between names, Twitter handles, presentations, and networking topics, there will be a lot of information to soak in. Know your best note taking strategies. What works best for you: pen and paper? Tablet word processors? Head in to every presentation prepared to jot down key information.
After each session, take a few minutes to note a few main points. If you have follow-up questions or comments, write those down too. When you return to the office, you’ll have a list of handy info ready-to-go.
#5: After the Conference
Networking is meant to help you establish rewarding business connections. In the days following the conference, send comments, questions, and requests to the people you want to follow-up with.
Make your message stand-out by reminding your connection of what you discussed. Attendee inboxes will be overflowing after any networking opportunity, so it’s important your message is personal and memorable.