Gain a competitive career edge by using your time at a conference wisely.
There’s more to conferences than collecting business cards and brochures. If done right conferences are a great way to expand your knowledge, pick up new skills, make new connections, nurture old ones, and grow your business. Here are five ways to maximising opportunities at a conference.
1. Read the agenda in advance and choose which sessions to attend
Most conferences tend to have a lot more sessions that you will be able to attend. So read through the agenda and review the speakers a day or two before the conference. What is your objective for attending? Shopping for software? Networking? Looking for information or career opportunities? Accordingly prioritise which sessions hold the most benefit and fit in with your objective. If a session isn’t panning out the way you thought, it’s okay to leave to go to another session. The idea is to make the most of your time and opportunities there.
2. Take notes
With informative speakers, workshops and presentations, conferences provide a whole lot of information. So it’s important you collect it in a manner that easy to review once you get home or to the office. Jot down key points made and any other takeaways from the sessions using any note-taking format of your choice. Note any questions you have so that you can ask the speaker at the end of the session or when you later connect. You can also tweet key points to share your learning with your social media audience and demonstrate your interest in staying on top of trends.
3. Put down your phone and be approachable
The point of a conference is to interact in person, so stay off your phone and don’t turn on the laptop. Look around you for opportunities to connect with speakers, panellists, and attendees during the breaks or between sessions. At a conference you don’t really need an excuse to introduce yourself. So make the most of this opportunity. Also if you look open then there are higher chances someone will approach you for a conversation.
4. Make it a point to interact with the speakers
Speakers at conferences tend to be people in the know, experts in the field. They are the connections you want to make. So pay attention and ask questions during the session. Most speakers hate it when their call for questions is greeted with silence. It makes them feel their audience is not engaged. So you’re actually helping the speaker out. Then wait till the end of the session to introduce yourself and obtain their business card. Tell them what you enjoyed about their presentation and build it on from there.
5. Follow-up with connections made
When you’re back at the office, make it a point to reconnect with people you met at the conference. These are potential clients, LinkedIn connections, and Twitter followers. Send a personal note saying you enjoyed meeting them and maybe reference something the two of you talked about. Follow it up with a LinkedIn invitation. Set up a phone call or meeting with those who are potential clients or those you want to build a deeper relationship with. By sure to do the follow-up within a few days of the conference while the interaction is still fresh in people’s mind. Also the more you procrastinate the less likely you are to do it.
Photograph: Katemangostar – Freepik.com