It is conference time again and your boss has informed you that he would be sending once again. In anticipation you prepare for the event by working like a dog up until the time you leave. The question is, how are you preparing? Why do you go to a conference anyway? Learn, meet people, and come back more empowered to do your job?
What really happens: you go to seminars, make small chit chat, pick up loads of materials that you never read and collect business cards that you never take a second look at once you return home.
Let me share a few insights and strategies that might make this conference rewarding.
“What if this time you had a true plan?
Start early planning for your event by reviewing the agenda; looking at speakers, breakout sessions and other helpful information. Identify your objectives for going to this particular conference.
Based on your objectives find five people you want to meet. Create a bio on them. Use Linkedin, Facebook, or their company website. Look for accomplishments, hobbies, and potential challenges. Yes, I know it sounds like stalking. If you really wanted to make a friend wouldn’t you make it your business to know about them so that you could more easily connect with them?
Gone are our childhood days when you walked up and said hi, my name is Karen, do you want to be my friend….now let’s go play.
Reach out ahead of time to people you want to meet at the conference. Make sure you have their phone number so you can find them and agree on a specific time and place to meet. There is no reason you can’t be host of your own conference within a conference. Make sure you are prepared by developing a spiel about the niche you occupy. Make yourself a resource to them.
During breaks look for those quiet ones. Often those are the ones who have the most knowledge but are the introverts who don’t strut their stuff. Cross Pollinate by introducing folks you meet to other people.
When a session opens up for questions be the first to ask a question. A really well-formed and insightful question is a mini-opportunity to get seen by the entire audience. Ideally the question should be related to your area of expertise so you have something to say when someone comes up and says “that was an. interesting question.
Take business notes, and stamps with you. Every evening take a few minutes to write a quick message to them. Drop the card in the mail. It will arrive home as they arrive home. This little action will make you a rock star with them. Send an email as well. The next morning, they will seek you out.
Follow up. Make sure you have as solid a follow up plan as you did before and during the conference.
Conferences can be more than you imagined. Stretch outside your comfort zone and see what happens!