Your business cards are printed, your bag is packed, you’ve got Evernote loaded on all of your devices. It’s time to head to an industry conference such as ISV Con for a great learning experience and some quality networking time. But once you’re there the time goes by too quickly and there are just too many people to meet. So how can conference attendees make the most of the limited time? Try these five tips to get the most from your conference experience:
1. Start Talking and Listening
Set your Twitter account to notify you of mentions of the conference and the conference hashtag. By starting your search early, you’ll catch mentions of tweetups or networking opportunities and hear conference news. You might also find attendees to connect with before the show. During the show, your search may tip you off to a great panel in progress or important conference announcements made in real time.
Be sure to use the conference hashtag as well. This helps others find and follow you and it makes your tweets visible to other attendees who might not be following you. Take pictures of the panels you attend and post them with the conference hashtag for additional interaction with conference attendees.
2. Be Clear on Your Goals
Why are you attending this event? The answer can’t be because you go every year, or because everyone else is doing it. Are you going to learn? Are you going to meet new people? Are you going to make sales? Be very clear about your goal, then create a plan based on that goal.
3. Plan Ahead
Yes, you know which sessions you’ll attend and you have the conference app on your phone, but take the time to drill down a little bit more. Besides the big-name people so many folks will be trying to meet, who else will be there that you could have a more meaningful connection with? Are there folks you’ve connected with in forums or groups who are attending? Plan a meet up with them in advance. Plan it for an open time in schedules when people are likely to be less tired like breakfast or a midday break.
4. Know Your Limits
You’re there for a limited time, so make sure you’re getting what you want out of the sessions and networking. If you’re in a session that isn’t relevant or interesting, step out quietly and find another one. If you’re speaking with someone who isn’t the right connection, gracefully excuse yourself. If you’re at a conference to learn and make connections, consider skipping the parties in favor of more intimate dinners or lunches.
5. Extend Your Networking after the Show
After the show, reach out to the people you connected with. Consider sending a thank you email to a particularly interesting speaker for the great value you found in the presentation. This may work far better than trying to connect immediately after the talk. Search blog posts and forum posts from people who attended the show and leave a comment or add to the conversation.
If you’ve found the event to be valuable, apply to be a speaker next year. Don’t forget to take advantage of the early bird pricing and lower cost of travel by booking early.
What are your top conference tips?