Fall is the time to sign up for business conferences to learn new skills, mingle with colleagues, and get inspired for re-energizing your business. Or, if you are thinking about changing your corporate hat for an entrepreneurial one, an event is a great place to get ideas for starting off quickly and profitably. Thoughtfully select an event that provides the type of training you’re eager for and is designed for your business size.
Out-of-town events are an investment in yourself and your business – one that you can easily offset with new contacts, strategies, and tools to boost your bottom line. Consider these strategies to get the most from your conference well before you head to the airport:
Research topics, speakers, and panelists.
Check out the website’s agenda for the event, and know who will be speaking and what the topics are. If there are breakout sessions, tentatively decide which ones address your needs the most. By doing your homework, you’ll be better informed, and be able to understand the training at a deeper level.
Know your strengths and gaps.
Let’s say that you know you excel at presenting your product or service, keeping in touch with clients, and putting a team together. However, you also want to be aware of the areas where you need improvement, such as online marketing, sales strategies, teambuilding, etc. Just writing these thoughts down before the event will help you raise your awareness to what the conference will present.
Know some of your key business numbers.
In the event you meet a high-level consultant or potential joint venture partner, you may want to have a few relevant figures handy like your gross revenue, list size, and number of employees or contractors. Have your forecasts for next year handy as well.
Connect with attendees.
Seek out Facebook event pages or forums that have been created for your event. It’s a great way to virtually meet conference attendees before the event, so when you do meet in person, you’ll be fast friends. Keep an eye out for Tweetups — impromptu gatherings of Twitter users — or better yet, organize one yourself.
Brainstorm strategic alliances.
Especially if you are just starting out in your business, you’ll want to form strategic alliances. For example, web designers and copywriters work hand-in-hand and refer each other clients. Consider what professions are your natural match, have them in mind, and you’ll be surprised how many of them you’ll meet at the conference.
Plan your travel well.
Arrive at your event destination a day or two early to relax, get acclimated, get on the same time zone, and get accustomed to your surroundings. Stay at the hotel where the conference is held to save time going from your room to the event, save money on car rental or cab fare, and increase your potential for connecting with other event attendees. (Your room is also a great place to get a little privacy and get a breather, so it’s nice when it’s close by.)
Dress for success.
For most events, business casual is the stated attire, but think about stepping it up a notch. Consider wearing solids and separates for a layered look accessorized thoughtfully with jewelry and scarves, ladies (and sports jackets, guys). Spend some time with your hair and make-up too. Why? You’re representing you, your business, and your brand, and the better you look and feel, the more people will notice you and find you approachable.
You’re just about ready, but here are a few more must-haves: an empty water bottle for being “green” while you travel, a few of your favorite power bars or snacks, and a method for jotting down lots of notes and your all-important follow-up list of action items when you get back home. Of course you’ll want to bring a stack of memorable business cards, but also consider a thoughtful take-away item that sets you apart, such as a pocket-sized calendar with your business contact information. Be clever and memorable.