5 Ways to Make the Most of Industry Conferences
Industry conferences offer a lot of benefits to a person who prepares for them. They give you insight into your industry, show you what’s new, and help you make connections with other people and businesses. Showing up to a conference isn’t enough — especially if you’re planning on presenting your own business at the conference. You need to be prepared before you walk in so that you get the most out of the entire event.
Be Prepared to Show What You Know
Whether or not you’re presenting at the conference, you need to be prepared to show what you know.
If you’re an attendee without a booth, bring business cards. Make sure that they have your position or field on them; many people exchange business cards at industry conferences and you want to make sure that yours stand out and are easy to decode. Dress for the event. You don’t want to wear anything that will make standing and moving all day uncomfortable, but you also don’t want to look too casual.
If you’re attending to showcasing, it’s even more important to be prepared. Bring literature about your products or services. Bring displays to entice people to stop. You want to stand out from the other people at the conference because it’s difficult for a person to stop and see everything that’s on display. Large eye-catching items that will draw notice will be helpful as a way to make you stand apart. Make sure you have enough staff to cover the booth. You can often rent extra help from local companies to showcase your products.
Socialize and Interact with Others
One of the main points of attending a conference is networking. You get to meet other industry leaders, take advantage of their knowledge, and potentially even come to a point where you can work together in the future. When you’re at the conference, make sure to take advantage of times set up to socialize. Wander around to different booths and sign up for a few mailing lists that interest you. Talk shop with the people manning the booths. Have a few questions for people doing presentations.
You should come prepared to socialize. Check the latest news in your industry, especially if you haven’t been keeping up with it. It’s important that you look interesting and informed. Remember to let other people do the talking as much as possible — people will come away with a positive impression of you. Keep it professional, even at after-conference events at restaurants or bars. Socialization to conferences often springs up in social groups, so try not to have plans before you get there unless they’re with other professionals. Your time at the conference is best spent furthering your networking abilities rather than sightseeing, for example.
Take Advantage of Technology
One thing that will make the entire conference easier is taking advantage of technology. For example, there are programs you can use to catalog the different people you meet, things you sign up for, and business cards you collect. This way you won’t have to rely on the pieces of paper or your memory. Instead, you can
You should also consider having html forms where people can sign up to find out more about any business endeavors that you have going. There are programs you can put on your website or use on a tablet or phone that will make it easy to collect data from people you meet at the conference. As a bonus, having something like that at the ready will make you look more professional.
Plan Your Route
Conferences are often extremely busy with too much going on for you to see everything. Before you go, plan your time out so that you’re able to tackle everything that you most want to see. There should be a map that shows where each booth will be set up. Take the map and mark the displays that you want to see. Consider who you want to meet and what your purpose for being at the conference is before you decide.
You should also decide which presentations you want to see before you go. You might not be able to see all — many overlap. If you’re going on behalf of a company where you work, talk to your colleagues and get their take if you’re not sure which to see. Someone else may show you an interest you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Follow Up the Next Week
Once you’re home, it’s easy to leave the conference behind you. It isn’t, however, the best thing to do. You should follow up with the people you met once you’re home. A quick email referencing meeting them, mentioning something interesting about the conversation, and inviting them to connect with you should be enough. Be polite, be professional, and make sure you’re addressing the right person before you press “Send”. Remember that these might be people you’re making deals with in the future.
Industry conferences can be great for you and your business. They give you a chance to network, to stay on the cutting edge of your industry, and to showcase what you have to offer. To make the most of a conference, have a plan before you show up, prepare to network, and go in prepared with everything you’re going to need to make an impact. While it’s important to be focused and professional, remember that conferences should be fun, too. Enjoy your time there and make the most of it.