If you’re one of those whose conference preparation involves skimming through the program the day before and arriving without a game plan, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority. Sure, it takes a bit of work, but planning ahead to ensure you get the most out of your event can be easier than you think. Let’s see how:
1. Make yourself memorable (for all the right reasons)
Consider investing in some high-quality corporate gifts to give to key figures you meet at the conference. Whether the place is packed with thousands of people or only a few dozen, making a lasting impression is difficult. Everyone will be meeting and talking to a lot of people, and it’s easy for all the faces, names, and stories to mix into memory soup. However, if you allow people to tie you, your winning personality, and great ideas (which, of course, you have) to a physical object they take home with them, you stand a better chance of making these new connections work in your favor.
2. Have a game plan
With a selection of appropriate gifts ordered well in advance, it’s time to devise a game plan for the event. This demands research. You need to know what you’ll be able to learn and who you’ll be able to meet, so you can decide what will be most valuable for you, and then devise a blueprint for hitting all those targets. Study the program, find out who will be attending, figure out who and what you want to see, and make a list of the target contacts you want to meet.
3. Engage in active learning
Knowing in advance which speakers and events you’ll be attending is crucial to making the most of the conference. However, it won’t offer you any lasting value if you don’t retain the information. There will be a lot to take in, so ensure you have a note-taking system that works for you. This may involve writing on a pad, typing on a laptop, or simply recording presentations. Whichever method you choose, be sure to note down the central ideas of each presentation along with anything that struck a chord with you. Not only will this be of benefit after the conference, but it will also play brilliantly into the next point.
4. Don’t be afraid to approach the speakers
The most valuable people to strike up a conversation with are usually those making the presentations. You’ll do far better approaching these people if you have taken note of their core ideas and the impact they had on you. Don’t be afraid to thank them for their presentation, tell them what you loved about it, ask questions, and get them engaged so that you can learn from their expertise. If you can get a business card or email address out of it, all the better.
5. Always follow up
Nailing the above steps won’t get you far if you don’t engage in strategic follow-ups. Either collect business cards, email addresses and add people on LinkedIn at the event. A quick email or message reminding them of a funny or interesting moment you shared along with a link to an article on a common topic of interest is a great way to establish a positive line of communication.
With a host of valuable new contacts, and a head full of all the information and inspiration you acquired at the conference, the only thing left to do is pay it all forward and share the most useful things you learned with your work colleagues.