SHIFTING to Get The Most Out of your Next Conference
Besides actually throwing away your money, the fastest way to lose hundreds of dollars is to attend an industry conference without a game plan. Conference events are a necessary investment in your business and professional development, but it takes more than just attending one to get your money’s worth.
Get the most out of your next industry event by following these tried-and-true guidelines:
Preview the agenda.
Before the event kicks off, make sure to set a goal for what you’d like to learn or achieve during the conference. Then, browse the schedule and figure out which sessions will move you toward reaching this goal. It’s important that you preview the session topics as well as the speakers presenting them. The connections you make at conferences can be just as valuable as the content you absorb.
Make connections early.
Nowadays, many conferences have a dedicated website, Facebook group or event app where you can preview who’s attending before the event even begins. Following the event’s Facebook page and/or Twitter hashtag is also a great way to start making connections. With many conferences hosting 100+ people, you can’t count on simply running into your prospects. Take advantage of these resources and make plans to connect ahead of the event. Because—as we all know—once a conference gets started, it is nonstop!
As event hosts, we’re big fans of lists. And the packing list is one of your most vital for a conference event. It should include your laptop/tablet, chargers, pens, back-up pens, a notebook, white out, business cards—absolutely anything and everything you can possibly think of for an information-packed day of learning and networking.
It’s all in the timing.
Arrive to everything early. You want to minimize your time standing in line and maximize your time meeting new people and learning new things. Arriving early to sessions also gives you the benefit of picking a good seat. Tip: The closer you are to the front, the fewer distractions in front of you.
Get out of your comfort zone.
If you’re attending a conference with a co-worker, don’t be glued at the hip. Split up and attend different sessions and sit separately during main stage presentations. This will double the amount of information and contacts you bring back to your business. Also, try to attend sessions a bit outside of your comfort zone to stretch your brain a bit. That’s what professional development is all about, right? And, most importantly, always wear your name tag and introduce yourself to as many people as possible. You can never have too many connections!
(Don't) burn the candle at both ends.
Everyone loves a good cocktail networking event, but those wakeup calls come early at conferences. Make sure you get enough sleep so you’re always well-rested for the day ahead. Take advantage of conference wellness activities, stay hydrated throughout the day and take time to stretch and move around in between sessions to keep your energy up.
There's fortune in the follow up.
Connecting with people you met at the conference is best done within a week of returning from the event. This includes sending follow-up emails, LinkedIn requests and any resources you’ve promised. And always, always include a personalized message. Everyone’s inbox will be flooding after the conference and you want your follow-up to stand out.
Give yourself a shout out!
Let your customers and clients know that you attended a conference. Whether through a newsletter, Facebook post, blog post or CRM drip, don't be afraid to pat yourself on the back publicly! Always tell your families/customers how you and your team are keeping up with the best childcare practices—always learning and striving to stay up to date in the industry.