7 Tips to Maximize Your Conference Experience

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You have pitched your boss on the value you would get by attending conferences and the boss has given you the green light to attend a few shows.  With the staggering number of conferences out there, how do you select the right show and maximize your experience so that you walk away with the most value?

Here are 7 tips on maximizing your conference experience.

1. Determine the right conference to attend

Start by defining what success is to you and your organization. Are you looking to grow a certain skill set? Or have you been tasked with researching new products to buy?  Are you looking for new suppliers? After determining your goals, you will then make a smart conference choice.

2. Be informed about your conference selection

A national show brings all the major vendors and thought leaders together but will that be too overwhelming?  If so, consider a regional show that would provide a smaller, more intimate environment where you have better access to people and conference resources. However, a smaller show may limit the number of dealers exhibiting and does not always include the major vendors.

3. Look at the schedule in advance so you can plan your agenda and develop a game plan

Today’s conferences offer a wide variety of breakout sessions including round tables, panel discussions, streaming presentations and workshops over multiple tracks.  These presentations will overlap so doing your homework before you arrive is critical to attain your attendance goal.  If you are attending a panel discussion or streaming presentation, prepare one question that you would like to ask during the Q&A portion.  If time runs out before you are able to ask, follow up after the conference with the speaker or moderator.  Are you attending the conference in order to fulfill education or certificate requirements? Make sure you know specifically what is required so you can earn the credit.

4. If you are in the market to buy, consider this:

  • Where are you at in the buying process? Do as much research in advance of the conference on specifically what are your organization’s needs and then review the conference’s website for the vendors sponsoring the event. You can then prepare questions in advance so when you are onsite, you are prepared to make the most of this opportunity.
  • Take advantage of a demonstration.  It’s a low pressure way of seeing the product in use.  I even suggest setting up an appointment in advanced so you know you will get the attention you deserve.
  • Ask the rep if there are customers at the conference that can serve as a reference you can connect with.  It is amazing what you may learn about a vendor when you speak to someone in person.
  • By engaging with the reps at the conference, you will also be able to weed out vendors for your leadership team.  You will quickly discover if a product doesn’t meet your needs or that the vendor isn’t a cultural fit for your own organization.

5. Pick up some SWAG

Don’t forget to grab the gift bags for the freebies but also collect the presentation materials for later reference. After the conference is over, it will seem like a blur so hold on to those pamphlets and swag to remind and inspire you later.

6. Download the conference app and connect on social media

Identify the conference hashtag and follow the conference Twitter profile.  You will get real time updates regarding changes and find out where speakers and your peers are hanging out.  It’s also a great way to win giveaways and enter raffles. Many apps now offer a way to chat or message other attendees.  Which leads me to the final – and most important tip…

7. NETWORK!

Don’t be shy. Strike up a conversation on the fly, there are multiple receptions, mixers and ancillary events.  These are golden opportunities to bounce ideas off of peers and subject matter experts to receive their real time feedback. Face-to-face meetings strengthen supplier relationships.  Reach out through LinkedIn or their company websites to meet for a meal, coffee or during the cocktail hour. Or plan to connect after the conference is over.

And lastly, after you return back to the office, prepare and share your highlights with the team and leadership. Communicating your experience, what you learned and how it will benefit the organization will validate the money and time you spent away from the office. It may help secure your next conference!

Conferences have always been a valuable resource so make the most of attending.

Don’t forget your business cards or your phone charger, and happy networking!

What conferences will we be attending? Check out our events page!

 

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