Exciting news — the boss has decided to invest in sending you to a conference!
Aside from attending all the parties and drinking all the booze (whoops, did we say that out loud?), here are 10 things you can do to make your conference a successful experience.
1. Start in a good frame of mind
Before you leave, try to tie up as many loose ends as you can. The more you feel like your plate is clear, the more you can focus on absorbing as much information as you can.
Focus on looking forward to the event, meeting people and being positive and accessible. Be open to your plans being tossed aside as you meet different people – that could be where you’ll make that next great connection and unearth the next big idea.
2. Be organized for the trip
Gather all your travel documents, airline confirmation numbers and flight itinerary, and have it all accessible.
There are several travel apps that help you organize this on your smart phone including TripIt, TripCase and GateGuru. There are plenty of apps for city guides, restaurants and more. If your event is big enough, it may well have its own app – or a special hashtag to follow on social media.
3. Check your tech
Part of being organized for a trip is making sure you have all the chargers, batteries, cords and accessories you need – particularly if you’re going to posting a lot on social media. Pay attention to battery life, and locate the conference’s charging and power stations.
4. Know who you want to meet
One of the benefits of going to certain conferences is the chance to meet people that influence what you’re doing. Don’t be awestruck, though – be confident in your expertise.
Do your homework and Google people you want to meet. Visit their websites and social media to learn as much as you can about them.
5. Be prepared to connect
There are plenty of ways to connect with people at a conference.
It’s low-tech, but a simple business card with your contact info and logo is still a useful tool. Learn how to share your contact information through text messages. There are apps that can help, but they may rely on the other person having the app as well. Use a method you can trust to work.
6. Prepare your elevator pitch
If you meet the right person and you have a window to speak to them – what are you going to say? Be prepared when someone asks “What do you do?” Give them one sentence that opens the door and offers them something they can remember about you.
7. Have some back-pocket conversation ideas
If you’ve got more time than five minutes in an elevator with someone, and you aren’t a great conversationalist, have some ice breakers ready. Being friendly and open is one of the best tools you can have. Just be nice and accessible – even if all you have to talk about is the weather and traffic.
8. Give yourself time off
Bringing your A-game in a social setting can be exhausting – especially if you’re someone who doesn’t normally speak with people outside of your work bubble.
Give yourself quiet time to recharge, even if it is only an hour between the last session of the day and the evening’s festivities.
9. Post, cross-post and repost
If you’re posting on social media from the event, make sure to not only post your original content, but repost things you find interesting and tag fellow attendees. It’s a way to help build your network.
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are up-to-the-minute update machines – make sure you use them all.
10. Create a follow-up plan
Once you get home, sort out your cards and the connections you made. Try to follow up within three days with people you met – especially if it seems there might some sort of business arrangement to discuss. Don’t forget to connect on LinkedIn, or if they are local to you, to connect in person over lunch.