Conferences are fun, exciting, amazing… but if you are heading to an event for the first time…
here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of your experience!
Avoid Jet Lag at All Costs!
The first tip starts even before you arrive. When you are on the plane on the way over, be sure to drink lots of water. The ideal is one bottle every hour. I like to drink Gatorade or other type of Vitamin Water drink to not only get the benefits of fluid, but some extra vitamins in there as well! The last thing you want to have happen is to arrive and already be exhausted before the fun has even started.
Avoid Getting Sick
Whenever you are around huge groups of people and do lots of handshaking, there is a greater possibility of getting sick. Sometimes you don’t get sick at the actual event, but once you get home… right when you were excited to be getting back to work! You can avoid getting sick by taking Emergen-C or Airborn on the flight and each day of the conference. Take hand sanitizer and use it often! (Hey.. I am a mom of 7 and we go to a lot of conferences at churches… it used to be that every single time we would go to a huge conference my kids would come home and they would all be sick! So I am talking from experience!) 🙂
Arrive the day before … not the day of.
If at all possible arrive early the day before the event. Again, if you want to get the most out of the event, you are going to want to spend as much time as possible networking and meeting people! Start the party early by arriving the day before! Be sure to not hide out in your room! Get out and work in the lobby, go to the gym, and just be visible. You never know who you will meet!
Stay at the event hotel.
So yes, the event hotel is sold out as of the time of this writing… so NEXT time… book your room at the event hotel. Yes the event hotel costs a huge amount more than budget hotels… but it is worth it! When you are out late networking, the last thing you are going to want to do is to get in your rental car and have to drive to another hotel. Plus after you pay for parking at both hotels, it is almost the same price.
When you stay at the event hotel it makes it easier to run back and forth to your room if you forgot something and you can take a quick break if you are just completely exhausted! I have a MacBookPro and even though it is awesome for taking notes and working… the last thing I want to do at the after parties is carry around my huge computer!
Now if you are on a budget… and you just can’t make it work… a great idea is to use Hotwire to find a 3 Star hotel in the same area for a great price. I have done this a lot of times and have ended up paying around $60-80 a night for hotels that were renting at $180 or more! When it is that big of a difference, it is sometimes worth the extra hassle of driving. Be sure to not rent 4 Star hotels as they never have free breakfast and they charge for parking and internet access… kind of defeating the whole point of trying to save money!
Dress for Success.
Business casual is pretty much always the accepted attire at live events. If you are networking for business you are going to want to dress just a little sharper than everyone else. Pay attention to the details. Wear a nice suit jacket, nice shoes, a nice watch. People do look at these things.
You never know who you might meet and what opportunities might come your way. Be prepared by dressing just a little bit nicer than you normally do so that you can give a great first impression!
Shoes. Have comfortable shoes! Even though you will be sitting a lot during all of the sessions… the networking always happens in the hallways… and usually standing!
What To Bring
Pack light. Try not to drag around a huge purse or backpack filled with all your stuff. Use a LiveScribe Pen to take digital notes or if you can invest in a MacAir or Ipad just for conferences… you will be set!
If you are a power networker, you might not have a lot of time to eat! Bring some granola bars and 5 Hour Energy drinks hidden away to pull out when you are feeling that afternoon lag.
I like to bring a new journal just for the event so that I can have all my notes in one place for each event.
You need them. A lot. But here is something that no one ever tells you.
….. No one will ever call you.
The key to business cards is COLLECTING them… not giving them away! Most people never follow up after events. Determine to be different. Determine to be memorable.
Some tips for your cards:
Have matte, not glossy. People can’t write on glossy cards and a lot of times they will want to write down something on your card. (Now don’t judge me on this one! I made this mistake and have a few hundred more to give away before I can get some more made!)
Have your picture. People won’t remember whose card went with who. By having your picture on your card, you will make yourself more memorable.
Have a card made with your cell phone on it. It was at one live event that I had met some really cool people… and then they told me the next day that they tried to get a hold of me the night before to invite me to go out to dinner.. and they told me that they had tried to call the number on my card but it went to my office… Yikes! 🙂 My cards now have my cell phone on them. You could put on your cards something to the effect… if you want to text me… here is the number for texting. Or get a temporary number that will redirect to your cell phone for the duration of the conference. Most phone companies… even Vonage for example, you can set to redirect the calls to go directly to your cell. Whatever the case, make sure you can be reached!
Have cool cards. One day I will make a post about all of the different types of business cards and business card ideas. But I guarantee you one thing. I will have the coolest business card at the conference. Just find me and you will see it. I will be wearing it around my neck. 🙂
So unless you already know a lot of people… there might be that awkward moment when you find yourself standing alone in a crowd. So two things you can do here.
First, if at all possible, find at least one buddy that you can go with. If you can hang out in groups of two, then you can avoid that awkward moment all together. 🙂
Second, if you see someone by themselves, be that guy (or gal) that walks up to them and introduces yourself and begins the conversation. I have done this many, many times and have met some of the most amazing people! I remember one time that there was someone by themselves with their back to me so I did not see their badge and I walked up to them and started a conversation… the next thing I knew there was person after person joining us as they were pretty much the most important speaker at the whole event. 🙂 Nice. I have struck up conversations with people in elevators that I later realized were some of the “gurus” that everyone wishes they could meet!
Granted, you might meet a few crazies. I have! When you realize that you are talking with someone that is just not quite all there… find a way to excuse yourself!
When it comes to networking, the most important rule is: Never eat alone. There are two ways to do this. You can look for one or two people and have a lunch together… or you can be the one that gets a big table and starts to invite all the small groups of two to three to eat with you. This works well at restaurants. When it is buffet style with tables of 10 or so, then you are gold. You can just sit anywhere and network with the group. If you are at a table where no one is talking, then be the facilitator. Everyone can go around and introduce themselves and share a little about what they do. That is usually enough to get the conversation going. Be the guy or gal that looks for that wall flower and tries to involve them in the conversation. You will be looked at as the leader if you do!
In the evening, get out of your room and hang out! Don’t hide in your room.. but be sure to call it an evening early enough so that you can get enough rest to start the next day early again!
How To Take Notes
Ideally when you come to an event that is content packed, you will walk away with a ton of action ideas! I like to leave a few pages in the front of my conference journal for the action items and big ideas that I get during the conference. Also leave a page at the front to take down names and emails of people that might not have business cards! If you can type your notes even better. If possible I like to have my computer with me and keep my Skype and Google calendar open. As I learn new things that we are not doing I can either send off a quick Skype note to my team… or I can schedule a time on my Google Calendar when I can research and share further the info I just learned about. I find at least for me, that if I wait till the end of the event to come home and review my notes and then try to share things…. I have already lost a lot! The more you can put into action as you learn, the more results you are going to get from the conference! And my team knows that conference time is not break time! That as soon as I am connected, they need to be ready! 🙂
After the Event
Here is where you can easily do 1% more than anyone else. You know all those business cards you collected? Yeah. So what to do with the pile of cards. First, connect with your new friends socially. Find them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest… and connect. Send them a quick message and if possible try to schedule a time to talk on the phone to follow up on your conversation.
Second, send all of them ONE email inviting them to join your email list. Just because they gave you their business card does not mean, you have permission to start spamming them. And please don’t do what someone recently did to me. They emailed me and CC’D all of the other people.. so NOW all the other people they met now also have my email address… and since they did not meet me… they think now they have permission to send me a bunch of emails! No!
If at all possible, schedule your follow up. If you meet someone that is interested in your services or someone you want to follow up with later, pull out your calendar and schedule a time to chat. Again I love using Google Calendar for this but if you don’t have a smart phone, then here is an easy way to do this. In the front of your event journal, put in the times and dates you are available after the conference for follow up calls. As you meet people, you can schedule them in and fill in the slots.
I hope you enjoyed these tips. If you are going to Traffic and Conversion Summit 2013, be sure to look me up!