Attending a business event soon? I hope you checked out my article about how to get ready for a conference before you attend, but if you missed it, here’s the link. This article is about how to make the most of an event while you’re there and after. Attending an out-of-town event is an investment, but it pays for itself if you attend with goals in mind, make connections, get training, and gain skills you need to catapult your business (or hit the ground running if you are just starting out).
Employ these strategies for getting the most out of a live event:
* Sign in early. Avoid the early morning rush and pick up your conference materials the night before. Peruse the materials and make a strategy for opening day. Remind yourself of your conference goals. Leave some time for enjoying your surroundings, checking in with some friends, or making some new ones, and getting a good night’s rest for the big day.
* Bring your biz cards. Be sure and have those business cards handy, and any other marketing materials that you brought. Remember that it’s best not to force them on people, but if they ask, you want to be able to get them out quickly and easily.
* Attend on time. Arrive at the conference a few minutes early to get a great seat. Although it is tempting to monogram your chair and stake your claim, consider moving around the room for different sessions to meet more people.
* Introduce yourself. Take the first step and introduce yourself to your seatmates. Engage them, and really listen, and show interest in them by asking questions, and they’ll be more apt to do the same for you.
* Take notes. Taking notes at a conference is sort of like taking pictures on a memorable vacation. You want to bring your camera, but not have the trip be about the camera. So with that in mind, jot down the major points, but don’t let the note taking overtake listening well and enjoying the experience. More importantly, record your “ah-ha” ideas for later follow-up.
* Socialize. Take advantage of all social opportunities (networking, coffee, tweet ups, parties, VIP opportunities) available. If you’re shy, open conversations by asking questions such as what people like best about the conference. Keep an eye out for your potential strategic alliances.
* Create good Karma. You remember the first day of school and how someone helped you out? Some attendees will be feeling like that, and you can help them along by showing them the ropes. Also be on the lookout for someone who is further along than you are in the process, and see if she can help you out a little. Be a mentor, and find a mentor — it’s good Karma.
* Mingle. Check out all of the tables you’ll see around the conference site. Some of them may be product tables to fill just the gap that you have in your business education. And don’t forget the sponsor booths. Let them tell you what they offer — there may be a goody in it for you.
* Fill out surveys. You’ll never know how much went on behind the scenes to bring you the event (unless you’ve hosted one yourself). Take a minute to fill out the survey so your hosts will know how to make the experience even bigger and better next time.
* Take care. It may be difficult, but you’ll want to find some downtime here and there to catch a break from all the action. Be sure and stay hydrated with water as well. Make time for exercise, even if it is just walking around the hotel to get some fresh air. Try to get a full night’s sleep too.
* Have FUN!
You prepared well before you left for your out-of-town event, and then you made the most of every second that you were there, learned a lot, and had a great time. Don’t stop there! You’re energized, and excited, and you’re overflowing with momentum. You just have a few tasks left to make the most of your experience:
* Review. Take the time to look over your notes, organize them, and prioritize them into a 1-2 page itemized list. Try and do this when everything is fresh, such as on the plane ride home. This will turn into your “action item” list that is pivotal to your following through.
* Reconnect. You’ve made a lot of fabulous contacts: potential clients, strategic partners, joint venture partners, potential vendors, and friends. Get them into your contact database at the least, and ideally write them hand-written notes for greatest impact. Airplanes and airports are great places to do that.
* Make it happen. Lastly, and most importantly, take your new vision of yourself and your “action item” list, and make it happen. Move past the resistance, grow past the fear, and one action item at a time, make your vision become a reality.© Copyright 2010 Ali Brown