Conferences come and conferences go. Perhaps you’ve been to many but have only taken valuable information away from a few. Was there a common thread amongst the ones you found valuable? I’m willing to bet that aside from quality content and great speakers, the ones that left a lasting impression are the ones to which you arrived prepared and found applicable to your life or your line of work. The beauty of conferences with a panel-focus (like our How To Be Awesome Online Workshop) is that you can have some control over the things you learn. Just like any class you’ve ever taken, the more preparing you do in advance — the more you’ll take away. Here are a few tips for coming prepared, asking the right questions, and turning a few hours into the best part of your month.
1. Define Your Purpose For Attending
In his Harvard Business Review article entitled How Will You Measure Your Life? Clayton Christensen emphasizes that going through life without a purpose will leave you like a ship without a rudder in rough seas. Despite the gravity of such a statement, it can relate to conference preparation. Attending a conference after establishing your reason for attending will help you define what you want to accomplish there. Whether you want to let others know about your organization, learn about a specific area of marketing, or simply use the experience for blog content, a few minutes of preparation can help you decide which questions to ask and decide on which attendees or speakers you’d like to meet.
2. Talk To People
This one probably sounds like a no-brainer and is usually inevitable but making a point of collaborating with fellow attendees, sharing ideas, and making an effort to ask content-related questions can be the first step in getting the most out of the conference AND building relationships with new people. You’re likely going to meet a lot of people and there’s no shame in writing names down or storing them in your phone to help yourself put a face to a name later on. Many who are thought to be great with names are great with names because they work at it.
3. Use Social Media
While cell phone and computer use is often discouraged in university and high school classes, using them to connect with fellow attendees and share things learned with those not attending can be a great way to enhance your experience. Many conferences will have a hashtag that allows you to keep track of everything being said (For those attending How To Be Awesome Online, use #awesome13).
4. Don’t Sit With Your Friends
I dare you.
5. Follow Up
If you’re going to turn networking into real relationships (more on that here), following up with people you met is a great way to do so. Panelists from the John Molson Sports Marketing Conference I attended in Montreal last summer said they most appreciated those who followed up with a handwritten card instead of email. This might seem a bit paradoxical for an internet marketing conference — but I like it.
If you have tips to add, please do below!