The 2013 ConvergeSouth conference is coming to a close. All that’s left on the post conference checklist is sending out post event emails to sponsors and attendees, having a feedback meetup for the team and announcing the dates for next year’s conference. Still, I’m already thinking about how to add more value to next year’s event so the attendees leave better equipped for their own endeavors.
I’ve found over the years that conferences tend to be hot or cold. Either breakthrough happens and it’s a huge catalyst for your business or life, or the conference was as productive as an 8th grade pep rally.
Most think the reality of these two outcomes is determined by the conference organizers, but I’d like to offer a different perspective. What if: The majority of the responsibility falls on the attendees.
If you can sit through a day or two of presentations from thought leaders and rub elbows with your peers, wouldn’t you get something out of it?
I don’t ever want you to go to another conference or industry trade show without leaving better or further down the road than when you got there.
Here are five things that will help you get the most out of every conference you attend:
I’ve noticed every time I show up at a conference without a goal I don’t get a lot out of it. If you are going to invest the time and money to attend a conference, take some time to write three to five things you want to come away with. This could be things you learn, meeting certain people, business development, cultivating relationships, etc. Have a conference goal in mind. It will help you focus on what you are trying to accomplish.
Networking has gotten a bad rap. The main reason for this is too many people network for their own gain instead of for the benefit of the people they meet. Two rules for networking: 1) Focus on the other person and be authentic. Remember peoples’ names and listen to what they have to say instead of waiting to talk. Think about what you can do for others instead of what they can do for you. 2) Be yourself. Don’t try to impress or self-depreciate, be friendly and approachable.
Come Early & Stay Late
If your schedule allows, get to an event early and leave late. There are usually pre-event activities and after parties. These are great opportunities to meet and nurture relationships with fellow professionals, prospects, or clients. Many times your best conversations and opportunities happen off the clock.
There is no way we can remember everything we see, hear and do at a conference. Take notes in a notebook, use Evernote, write on your arm, do something to jot stuff down. I get great ideas at conferences by being around so many smart folks. I meet people and hear success stories that I want to remember when I get home. Oh, one more thing, read your notes when you get back. How many times have we taken notes and then never reviewed them?
Develop Long-Term Thinking
I see conferences as lasting long after the event has ended. There are connections made and knowledge gained that should carry you forward. Follow up with the people you meet. Apply what you learn to deliver a better product or service to your customers. Share the experience with friends who didn’t go.
Attending conferences should be fun and move you closer to accomplishing your goals. They are a perfect environment for bridging the online-offline gap and building relationships. So, before your next conference, remember to go to the event with a plan and leave stretched, inspired, and encouraged.