Attending business conferences can give you the opportunity to network, present yourself or company, learn about new technologies and services or simply find inspiration for your career path. Whatever the purpose, preparing for a business conference is more than just finalizing travel and accommodations plans.
"Before anything else, preparation is the key to success." – Alexander Graham Bell
Following these simple steps will help you properly prepare to get the most out of your business conference.
Step 1: Research
Researching the event is as simple as reading the pre-conference marketing materials, website and event schedule. Many conferences offer a list of attendees – finding your peers or business contacts will help you highlight meeting prospects and manage your time. Make a priority list so you don’t miss opportunities to meet a new contact or reconnect and network with past business contacts. Reviewing the conference materials can also help you decide which sessions, if offered, you should attend. Review the conference map ahead of time so you can plan your day more efficiently and maximize your time away from the office.
Step 2: Promotional Communication
Let people know you plan on attending a conference well in advance. Use Twitter to search for an existing hashtag (#CES) and start following the host of the event and others using the same hashtag. When discussing the event and your plans, always include the event hashtags as it will also alert others that you are there. Announce your plans across all of your social media channels. This will benefit your time management and potential meeting plans. Setting up meetings prior to the event will ensure you have a schedule to follow and will come in handy in case you don’t know anyone at the event.
Plan to pack your business cards. Make sure all of the information is current and correct. Booths providing samples or promotional items will expect your contact information in return. Be prepared to hand out and receive business cards for the duration of the event. Keep a business card binder handy and as you finish up your day, make notes on the business cards you collected. After the conference, always follow up with any new contacts you received.
Step 3: Plan Your Mission Statement
Planning your mission statement (or quick pitch or elevator pitch) in advance will help you define your precise goals for attending any conference. Ask yourself (and answer) what you intend to get out of the event. Outlining your goals and writing down your mission statement will help build your confidence when introducing yourself to new prospects and networking opportunities. Keep in mind, the more prepared you are the more spontaneous you can be.
Step 4: Plan To Be Social
If striking up a conversation isn’t your strongest asset, make a plan to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to approach someone or engage a group on a topic from a seminar you attended. Practice creative listening. Ask thoughtful questions. Follow up with the people you meet and connect online.
"One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation."
– Arthur Ashe
Business conferences are a great place to make connections, network and find inspiration. Planning ahead of time will ensure you get the most of your time at the conference.