You’re going to the big industry conference. Now what? Have you done anything to strategically prepare to get the most out of your attendance and networking? Or are you just going to wing it and pray that you’ll get something out of it? I regret to say that the latter is the norm.
Here are 10 pre-conference planning tips for productivity and profitability:
1. Make a plan. Know why you are attending and what you want to get out of it. Then, develop a plan to accomplish your goals. Before you go, answer the following questions: Why am I attending? Whom do I want to meet? What do I need to accomplish?
2. Organize a pre-conference get-together. Start your planning early and find out who is attending and when. If you can arrive a day early, encourage some of the people you want to connect with to do the same. Then, invite them to a pre-conference get-together.
3. Create or join a Twitter group. Create a group of conference attendees you want to connect with or join a group that has already been created. Stay in touch before the conference. Tell group members you are looking forward to meeting or seeing them at the conference. And use the conference hashtag for general correspondence about the conference.
4. Prepare a little gift for 10 to 20 people with whom you wish to connect. For example, if you’re from Philadelphia, you could bring Tastykakes and Tootsie Rolls. Put them in small gift bags with your business card and include a note stating that you look forward to connecting or reconnecting with the individual. If you’re from Vermont, it could be Maple Syrup. No matter where you are from, there is something unique that you could share with select attendees.
5. Determine who you want to connect with at the conference. Review the attendee list thoroughly and make a point to reach out before the conference and invite them to meet for coffee, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or invite them to share an Uber to or from the hotel or to meet in the lounge for an evening beverage. There is always a way to meet, even when you are attending a conference with little downtime.
6. Plan your agenda Review the program ahead of time and know which sessions you want to attend. Reach out and introduce yourself to speakers, tell them what you hope to get out of their program, and mention that you are looking forward to hearing them speak. Follow up at the program and introduce yourself in person.
7. Update your social media profile images, especially those that appear on LinkedIn and Twitter. Make sure your profile displays a recent photo so other attendees will recognize you when they see you, especially if you are actively using the Twitter hashtag.
8. Prepare your packing checklist. Make sure it includes items such as business cards, branded pens (to share with people who need a pen), personal and branded name tags, conference badge flags that promote fun and conversation, or other items that might help develop relationships and serve as icebreakers. And if you are known for wearing funky socks, hats, broaches, bow ties, or scarves, be sure to include them in your packing list.
9. Gather contact information. Have contact details for everyone you want to connect with on your mobile device and include photos so you can easily remember who is who. If you’re wondering where to find photos, just do a Google search, and you’ll likely find some on company bios or LinkedIn profiles.
10. Be prepared for insightful conversations. Be sure to do your homework. Read online profiles of the people you want to connect with. Print them and review them in advance. Then, when you meet those people, be sincere. Have a conversation. Get to know them.
Conference attendance is as much about business development as it is about relationship development and professional development. Spend time preparing so you get the best return on your conference investment.