Hello and welcome back to the Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host Tim Simmons, and today, I want to talk about how to get the most out of a conference.
The digital age has changed the way we communicate and build relationships. And while it’s great to be able to connect with someone on the other side of the world by email, phone, or chat apps, face-to-face contact is certainly not dead. In fact, in this hyperconnected world, face-to-face contact is even more valuable, and one of the best opportunities for face time is at a conference.
Getting the most out of a conference begins before the conference, when you plan your trip. In many cases, you’ll have the option to stay at the conference venue. If so, it’s worth it. And if not, then stay as close as possible. You don’t want to miss out on any action because you’re spending time getting to and from the conference. And there’s lots of informal networking opportunities that can happen spontaneously around the conference location. You want to be able to capitalize on those opportunities as much as possible.
Conference preparation also means having an early look at the agenda or lineup of talks and deciding which ones you want to attend. You might choose based on the topic, or because you want to meet the presenter. But don’t pack your schedule. Leave some time open for a tete-a-tete with a prospect or a potential partner.
Now, you’ve probably seen people at conferences ducking out of presentations to take phone calls or madly sending emails during breaks? Don’t let that be you. If at all possible, carve time out of your schedule to be truly present at the conference. Let colleagues know you’ll be busy so they don’t inundate you with email.
You’ve probably also seen people racing around trying to locate a phone charger, or apologizing because they don’t have any business cards on them. These are definitely things to avoid. Come prepared. Make sure you have all the tech and business cards you might need.
So, imagine you’ve done all you should to prepare and you show up on the first day at the registration table. You get your name tag and your conference package and…now what? Well, I’d like to share some “dos” with you today. And in our next lesson, I’ll go over some important “don’ts.”
What kind of “dos” am I talking about? Well, my number one suggestion is to get out and meet people. If all you want is information or learning, then you can do that online, or in a class. A conference is one of the absolute best networking opportunities around. So don’t be shy. Be the first to break the ice. Be the first to break the ice! Other people will appreciate it. That conference room is full of potential customers and collaborators. Go find them. Be personable. And in every conversation, try to establish a personal connection or something in common. That might mean a place, an interest, a mutual acquaintance, or an opinion on one of the speakers.
Speaking of speakers, it’s a great idea to use the topics of their talk or workshop as a starting point for a conversation. And one thing you should do that will help you absorb and process what you learn is to take notes. Don’t assume you’ll remember everything you hear. Taking notes will also help you ask good questions at the end of a talk or presentation. That’s one way you can stand out, make an impression on people, and build a connection with the presenter.
Asking questions is part of a more general bit of advice: participate! That doesn’t just mean in workshops or sessions. You should also be engaged via social media, by posting on the event’s website as well as your own. It also means getting involved in social activities after hours. A lot of great business is conducted, and relationships built, at the pub.
But, let me give you one ‘don’t’ in advance of our next lesson: don’t overdo it at the pub, especially early in the conference. If you have so much fun that you miss half the next day, you’re wasting an opportunity.
Okay, I’ve talked about the importance of good preparation, staying close to the action, and making sure you have everything you need so you’re not scrambling during the event. I’ve also given you some advice for during the event, especially around networking, taking notes, and participating in everything the conference has to offer. Tune in next time and I’ll cover some things to avoid, and talk about some important conference follow-up activities.
That’s all for today. So long. And see you again soon.