From education opportunities to new business contacts, conferences can be of immense value to you with the proper planning and execution. However, there is no way around it – attending a conference is expensive. From the hotel, to food, to exhibiting, to the conference registration alone, it adds up quickly. All the more reason to make sure you get the most value out of attending a conference.
Here are some quick tips for before, during, and after to maximize your conference experience.
Even before you pack your bag, make sure you have checked out the conference program. Read through the session abstracts and identify the must-see sessions and speakers. You want to optimize your time by only going to sessions that are relevant to you. Doing this ahead of time allows you to schedule meetings in confidence knowing you are not going to miss out on important sessions.
Also, take some time to develop questions you might have about the sessions; if there is a Q&A opportunity, you’ll be ready with well thought out questions. Consider whether there are certain media or analysts you would like to connect with. (I know a great PR team that can help with that!)
Lastly, don’t forget to follow the conference and speakers on Twitter, and find out the official conference hashtag – this is a great way to join the conversation about the conference on social media.
With your schedule in-hand, you are ready for a valuable conference experience. Apart from attending the sessions, taking notes, and asking thought-provoking questions, conferences are also about networking. You’ll want to engage both in person and on social media.
You know those speakers you followed on Twitter before you arrived? Well, you are now listening to them give their presentations live and in person. Share session highlights and mention the speakers in your tweets. Don’t forget to use the conference hashtag to ensure the broadest exposure for your tweets, as well as taking the opportunity to engage with others by liking and retweeting other tweets – you’ll be surprised the extra interactions you can have during the conference on social media.
Now, engaging on social media is great during the conference, but don’t forsake the traditional meet-and-greet. Introduce yourself, share business cards, and engage in a little networking, because there is nothing quite like meeting and making a connection in person.
The conference has come to an end; you are back to your daily grind. But, there are still a few things you’ll want to do related to the conference. Make sure to connect with your new contacts on social media and shoot them a quick follow-up email to continue the conversations you were having at the conference.
Summarize your key takeaways – what did you learn, who did you meet. Taking a few minutes to process and gather these takeaways will allow you to create more value by identifying key applications and taking action on them – whether it be adopting a new process for your business or closing a sale.
You may even choose to write a blog – this is a great way to share comments about what you learned at the show with a broader audience. And now with LinkedIn Pulse, you don’t have to have an established company or personal blog to share your thoughts with your network.
A few days out of the office, cool destinations, opportunities to learn and socialize…conferences can be a lot of fun. However, you don’t want to lose sight of your end goal – bringing value to your business or organization. So remember: check out the agenda beforehand, join the social media conversation, follow up with your new contacts, and identify and apply key takeaways. With these quick tips, you can make the most of your conference.