I recently had the opportunity to attend an in-person conference…I know – how long has it been since we’ve been able to do this?!? Since we are all out of practice, I wanted to share my insights into how to maximize your ROI when attending a conference. If you are going to spend your valuable time away from your desk and your business, you should ensure you make the most of it!
Once you have signed up for the conference, add it to your calendar and start clearing your schedule. Reschedule anything that conflicts with your time away. Notify your clients and your team that you will be out, so you can focus completely on the conference without external distractions. Don’t forget to set your Out of Office message for your email. That way, you can maximize the financial and time investments you have made without guilt or fear of missing something important.
Before you go:
Let’s start with what to pack. Be sure you are representing your company well! Whether it is with company-branded apparel or your own flare for style, always be sure you are putting your best foot forward. And speaking of feet, be sure to choose comfy shoes! You never know how far you will end up having to walk to get to events or between venues. As much as we might not like to think it’s true, first impressions do play a role in setting the stage for potential future encounters, so be sure you are portraying the message you wish to portray through your appearance and demeanor.
Be sure to bring some marketing collateral to share with those you meet. Along with your business card, include something more that gives additional information about your specific company – something that sets you apart and gives you an edge in your field. Be sure you also have an easy and easily accessible way to collect and store the information you collect from others. There are apps you can download to your phone to capture business card information. Or, at the very least, open your LinkedIn app and add them right there on the spot! Make a note of where you met them or a fun fact about your encounter. That way, once you are home and sending follow-up emails to your new contacts, you can give your correspondence that personal touch. This note will also help jog your memory and give you context clues about each person, since you are likely to meet more people than you can remember by name alone.
At the Event:
Make the most of your time there, meaning, if you’ve come with a group, branch out and sit by people you don’t know, not the people with whom you came! You are there to broaden your horizons and make new connections, so use every opportunity to do so. If there are booths to explore and exhibit halls to peruse, don’t spend your time hiding in your room! Get out and take advantage of this opportunity to ask questions and meet vendors. When you find yourself standing in line, on your way to dinner, or choosing a seat for a breakout session, begin a conversation with a stranger. After a few minutes, they will no longer be a stranger! If you are intrigued by the conversation, ask them to grab coffee. This is your opportunity to be brave and take that chance. It just may result in something amazing.
Always make sure you have something to write on…whether it’s a notebook, an app on your phone, or one of the snazzy electronic notepads like reMarkable. Before the speaker begins, jot down their name and the topic of the session for reference. Then once the session begins, write down anything that stands out to you – a quote that resonates with you, a pithy phrase that sparks your interest, or a tantalizing tidbit that strikes your fancy. Snap a photo here and there too, so you can post to social media in the moment or have an email open and ready to compose and send to your marketing representative for posting to social media platforms. This will take your networking efforts even further to those beyond the conference walls.
After the Event:
Be sure to follow up with every single person you met. Remember those business cards you collected, LinkedIn connections you made, and the little notes you took when meeting each person? This is why you took the time to collect all of this information – so you can reach out and continue the conversations you started! Be genuine in your tone and have a goal for each correspondence. How can you be a good partner to them in their business? Be sure you articulate this in your message. For those who don’t initially respond, provide them one more opportunity to connect with you by reaching out one more time. Additionally, be sure to connect with ALL of the people you met on LinkedIn including a reminder of where you met them in your message to connect.
Once you have arrived back home, connect with your team to share your notes. Discuss what actionable steps have come out of your encounters and delegate those tasks per department (operations, marketing, etc.). Go back through all of the materials you collected at the conference and make sure you have captured all of the pertinent information necessary to follow up. Have you connected with everyone? Are you following them on social? Has all the necessary information been passed along to the appropriate departments and filed appropriately electronically? When you are sure everything has been filed appropriately, you can throw it away.
If you have found this information about attending a conference informative and helpful, and you’d like more tips related to business performance, productivity, and motivation, please check out the blog section of our website. If you’d like to find out how to partner with Remote COO’s team of experts, contact us to schedule a time to talk with me.