You know what problem I have realized? A lot of us suck at making the most of the conferences and events that we attend. I recently went to my first conference this March and I realized after the event that the little prep-work I did wasn’t enough. I had done some research and listened to a great podcast from Jayson Gaignard called “Community Made,” and it was Episode 3 of Season 2: An Event Networking Guide. It had great content and info but I wish I would have done a better job applying it.
With my first conference down, and my first set of mistakes behind me, I plan on sharing this adventure of going to conferences with you in hopes that it can help us all make the most of these investments. Since putting all of the thoughts down would make for a rather wordy post, I am splitting this up into three parts: prep-work, event, post-event. Now, lets talk about the prep-work. (You can watch the video breakdown here)
The most time consuming and yet rewarding part of the prep-work is going to be doing some research on who is attending the event that you think would make for a great connection. Some conferences, like the one I attended, will send out an attendees list while others don’t. If they don’t send out a list, see if they have a hashtag they are using for that event that could possibly be used to find some folks who are attending. However you end up discovering who is attending, I would encourage you to take the time and find 5-10 folks that you think would be interesting to meet. The next step is to do a little LinkedIn search on them to find out a little more about them and their company. Once you have some general info, I would recommend whittling that list down to the top 3-5 folks you will seek out to meet. If you were able to find them on LinkedIn, their profile more than likely has a picture and now you know who to look out for. This next part is crucial and is something I botched with this conference. Once you have that list of 3-5, send out a message or a connect via LinkedIn, or if you have an email, reach out via email. Just give a brief non creepy / no pressure message saying that you will be attending the conference and would love to see if you can’t meet up for five minutes. Seriously, don’t make this wordy, and don’t make this a big commitment. Make sure in the message you give them an out. Once you have done your research and your messages are sent, it’s time to think about the next prep step… pre-planning for the morning of the conference.
You want to remove as much negative stress as possible for the day(s) of the conference and a big way to do that is to figure out how you want that first day go. You want to make sure that you pick out your clothes a day in advance, maybe even get a nice up-doo if thats your thing, and even put your business cards in an area where you won’t forget to take them. Side story, I forgot mine and had to turn around and get them. Having your clothes laid out the day before takes that stress of what to wear off of your mind and it gives you a chance to visually see how much of a #boss you are going to look like. Remember, when you look good, you feel good.
Now that we have our outfit picked out, and your cards in a memorable spot, there are two last pieces of advice for the morning. Get a mini workout in. I know, I know, you don’t work out… like ever. I am not suggesting that you go run a half marathon or pump some iron for an hour, what I am asking you to try is to go on a brief ten minute walk, maybe do a push up or crunch, and eat a healthy breakfast. What this does is get endorphins flowing through your body and it gives you eustress, the good kind of stress, and gets you ready for what will most likely be a day full of a little bit of anxiety and stress because you are in a room of hundreds of strangers.
Now, the very last bit of advice is this, leave in plenty of time to get to the conference early. You don’t want to throw away all the positive affects of your prep-work because you decided to give yourself 20 minutes for a 19 minute drive. Please, do yourself a favor and leave early.
I did some of these steps well and others I completely bombed, but what I know now is that if I put all of these together, it will set me up for an even better ROI for attending future conferences.
What prep steps do you take to crush the conferences you attend?