Got a conference coming up soon? If your boss is sending you, you might not be that thrilled about the idea of heading to a such a large event when you could be doing other things. Or maybe you are going for yourself – it could be because you are a freelancer and think the chance to network and meet other industry professionals will be good for you. Either way, you are going to need to get out your best schmoozing skills so that you can make the most of your time at the conference.
Of course, you will need to be ready to get out there and introduce yourself to people. This might be quite a daunting prospect, especially if you consider yourself to be a bit of a wallflower! Hopefully, though, all of these following tips can help you make a big success of your time at conference, in more ways than one!
Prepare Before You Go
There will be plenty of preparation to carry out before you leave for conference. First of all, it’s a good idea to jot down a few points that you want to learn or any things that you want to teach or tell the people who you meet. If your boss is sending you, it’s a good idea to have a chat with them so you can find out if there are any things he wants you to find out while you are there. It’s also useful to take a look at the programme or agenda before you leave. You can see what kind of talks will be happening and which ones will be of the most use to you.
Know Where You’re Going
If you haven’t been to the conference venue before, you should familiarise yourself with a map. You need to figure out the best route to driver there. If you don’t want to driver there, then you should take a look at your public transport options. It’s key to carry out these initial checks so that you don’t get lost when you are trying to get there. After all, you don’t want to get there late and in a bit of a fluster!
See Who Else Will Be There
The chances are that the conference programme will be released well in advance of the day. Take a look and see who will be giving talks and speeches. You can then figure out who you want to see so that you can start to figure out a timetable for your time at the conference. It’s also a good idea to see if anyone you know is planning on going as well. That way, you can see if you will have a conference buddy! Going to a conference alone can be very nerve-wracking, so it’s always good to see if there is anyone you can team up with during your time there. If your boss is sending you, it’s a good idea to see if he can send you with a colleague so that you can double up and tackle this big event together!
Get Useful Equipment To Take
Remember when you used to pack your school bag the night before so it would be all ready for you to take to school the next day? It’s a good idea that you get back into this habit ready for conference. Think of everything you will need and pack it all ready. At the very minimum, you should take a laptop, writing pad, diary, and pens. You should take a look at some cheap ID carrying ideas as well. Most conferences issue key cards so that everyone can have access to the areas that are only for ticket areas. A lanyard will come in handy and can prevent you from losing your keycard and name tag!
Wear Something Comfy
You might as well put your nicest high-heeled shoes back into your cupboard. You certainly won’t need them for conference! That’s because you need to prioritise practicality when you are dressing for conference. Sure, you need to be smart and dressed ready for professional, but you should also be prepared for spending a lot of your time on your feet. Don’t forget to check the weather to see if rain is forecast. If it is, you should dress appropriately, or else you might end up turning up to conference looking like a drowned rat!
Get There Early
On the day of conference, make sure you get there early. You will then have chance to familiarise yourself with the venue and find out in which rooms all of your talks are going to be. It also gives you the chance to do a big of mingling before things get started. You really don’t want to turn up at the last minute, or you might end up with the last seat right at the back of the room! So, take your time and arrive early to do away with all the stress and rushing that might cause you to panic if you end up arriving late!
Introduce Yourself To Everyone You’ve Ever Emailed
The chances are that there will be a few business contacts at the conference who you have previously been in touch with via email. If this is the case, you should try and seek them all out so that you can say hello and introduce yourself in person. If possible, you might want to drop them a quick email the week before the conference to let them know that you will also be attending. This is a great way to improve your relationship with your clients and suppliers, and to make things more personal between the two of you.
Hand Out Business Cards
Don’t forget your business cards! Don’t have any currently? If not, then get some printed as soon as possible so that you have plenty to take with you! It’s really important that you hand these out to anyone new who you meet. They will then have all of your contact details and will be able to easily get in touch once they are back in the office. When you are designing your business cards, you should try and come up with an interesting and eye-catching design. After all, everyone will receive a lot of cards, and you need to make sure that yours stands out from all the rest.
Chat With Speakers
It may be quite scary, but it is really worth introducing yourself the the speakers and having a chat with them. I’m sure you will be able to drum up the courage needed if you do feel a bit intimidated by this. This experience will be very rewarding, and you should find that it can really reinforce everything you heard in their talk. Not only that, though, but you might get your own piece of personal advice!
Talk To Those Around You
It’s not only the speakers who you should make the effort to speak to – it’s also worth chatting with the people who are sitting near you. This is actually a simple networking tip. Rather than going out of your way to try and talk to people, just introduce those who you end up sitting next to. You never know how many interesting people you might meet this way!
Summarise What You Learn
At the end of conference, it’s worth taking some time to create a bullet-point list of the things that you have learned. This will be very useful if your boss is expecting you to report back, as it can help you remember all the important stuff. You might even want to write it up as an article so that you can share it with all your colleagues. It could be worth publishing the article online, as fellow conference goers might even find it useful – it could refresh their memories too!
Now that you are back in the office, you should follow up with everyone who you met and everyone who gave you their business card. You don’t need to do too much – just a really quick email saying that you were pleased to meet them and that you look forward to connecting in the future will be enough. This helps to show them that you really did take an interest in them and are open to working with them in the future.
Not Enjoying It? Leave
Of course, not every conference will go according to plan. There are various reasons why you might end up feeling far from comfortable. This could be because of the people who are attending or because of the different topics that are being discussed. Or you might just not find it all that interesting or useful! If this is the case, then you shouldn’t feel like you have to stay. Your time will be better spent doing something else that is of more use to you. So, don’t ever feel bad about leaving a conference early.
Hopefully, all of these tips can help you get the most of your next time at a conference.