Signing up for a professional conference can be exciting: New connections! Fresh ideas! Sage advice from experts! However, in order to benefit from all an event has to offer, you’ll want to do some prep work before attending.
“Conferences can be powerful learning and business-building events if you are prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that will be presented,” notes Dennis Favilla, a sales training and support specialist for the Sign & Graphics Division of Alliance Franchise Brands.
Follow these guidelines to make the most of your next conference.
1. Think before you sign up. “Don’t just attend a class because the speaker has a big name and will draw a crowd,” advises entrepreneur and photographer Carolyn Ann Ryan. The discussion may cover a topic you already know very well.
Instead, she recommends planning which seminars to attend by picking three goals for your business. By identifying the areas in which you want to see improvement, you’ll be able to target sessions that support your objectives.
2. Manage your schedule. “Try to plan lunches and dinners ahead of time,” Ryan suggests. Get in touch with vendors or other people you want to connect with, and set up meetings over meals. You’ll maximize your time at the conference, and you won’t end up eating alone.
3. Pack smart and sensible attire. When picking out clothes, leave the casual garb at home and dress like you’re still at work. “Remember that people will reach the conclusions about us that we lead them to, and we have great control over our professional image,” Favilla says.
Consider a pair of shoes that’s comfortable for standing and walking. “At some conferences, you may have to walk 15 to 20 minutes indoors to get from your room to the conference area and trade shows, even when you are staying at the resort hosting the conference,” Ryan notes.
4. Bring the right promotional materials. If your business card doesn’t already include your photo, consider attaching one to help others identify and remember you after the conference. In addition, keep a pen handy and take notes on the back of the cards you receive, Favilla suggests. This will help you keep better track of who’s who among your new contacts.
Practice your elevator pitch, too. By being able to quickly communicate your company’s mission or offering, you’ll find it easier to establish new connections. You can then follow up with people after the conference.