Getting the most out of attending conferences

Conference workshop
Travel News 30 Jan 2016

With the right strategy and approach, attending conferences can prove to be an all-around useful opportunity for yourself and your business.

You can make valuable contacts, learn about various topics in your industry or field, and bring back potential sales leads to your company. Below are a few tips on making the most of your time at a conference or trade show.

  • Schedule meetings beforehand: Plan to set up meetings with prospects or others you know will be in attendance before the conference begins. This will allow for less time-crunching when trying to balance your time attending sessions, networking with vendors and manning your booth if your company is exhibiting. This can work to your advantage when attending a conference alone. Before even attending, you’ll already have to people to meet!

  • Tailor your schedule: Set a goal for topics you’d like to learn about and prioritize which sessions you think you can get the most out of. Plan your schedule around your personal interests and business goals, or around what you consider will be more valuable for your position. Don’t feel the need to follow the herd and attend the more popular sessions. Sometimes the most memorable and meaningful experiences take place in the less popular components of the agenda.

    If you’ve walked into a session you don’t think is valuable for you, don’t be shy about politely getting up and leaving. It’s important to invest in your limited time wisely. Also, try to mix up the types of workshops and sessions you attend, as it will keep your mind fresh with some variety. You may encounter repeated points of discussion and/or get bored easily if you choose sessions that are all too similar.

  • Register early: Being stuck in a long line at the registration desk is a time waster. It’s best to register as early as possible so you can maximize your time meeting people and making sure your exhibition space is getting the attention it needs. Many conferences have registration open before the first official day of exhibiting, allowing you to retrieve conference passes and badges before it gets hectic.

  • Make sure your team stays connected: If your company sends a group of reps to a conference, everyone should function as a unit, keeping alert of all ongoing activities. The entire group should agree on using a group messaging service like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or a simple group text to communicate event updates, each other’s whereabouts and group meeting times. This is a great approach so every member of the team is in sync and aware of everything that is going on.

  • Network as much possible: This means doing things such as sitting with a different group of people during conference meal times, and arriving in session rooms early to speak with those in attendance before the official session start time. This doesn’t mean you need to abandon your team, but it is important to take the opportunity to meet people outside of your business while there. Any discussion as a result could lead to a potential client, partnership, or simply a new friend. Attending post-conference social events also allow for a more relaxed setting to strike up conversations and loosens people up a bit, making striking up conversations much easier.

  • Try not to multi-task: While at an event, you may tend to think of all the work you pushed aside to be in attendance. Instead of trying to catch up with emails while manning your exhibition space or waiting for a session to begin, find a quiet space and allot time for any pressing work needs. Focus on getting the most out of your time at the event and how it will benefit the company and your role upon your return.

  • Wear comfortable shoes: Whether manning your exhibition space or in packed session rooms with no available seats, a lot of standing around will be done. You’ll also do plenty of walking to and from the exhibition hall, your hotel room, dining areas, etc. Comfortable shoes are necessary as you navigate from place to place on your feet. Women especially should think twice about wearing heels that may not be optimal for being on your feet all day.

  • Schwag it up: Conferences are filled with vendors doing what they can to direct attention to their brand’s exhibiting space. One way of attracting booth traffic? Schwag – and lots of it! Conferences aren’t just about workshops, generating leads and networking, it’s also about enjoying the overall experience and the free goodies are a big part. Companies spend a good chunk of their funds on branded items to just not give them away, so have no shame in accepting any unique and cool items you may find useful.