How To Attend a Conference

This guest post is writ­ten by David Lecours of Lecours­De­sign. Would you like to author a blog guest post? Con­tact Vik­ki Ott, SMPS San Diego Media Com­mit­tee Co-Chair at vott@haleyaldrich.com.

Do you enjoy attend­ing con­fer­ences as much as I do? Meet­ing new peo­ple, expo­sure to new ideas and ide­al­ism are all infec­tious. But a week after the con­fer­ence is over, what real­ly sticks with you? Is your invest­ment of time and mon­ey worth­while? Here are 8 Tips for mar­keters to get the most out of attend­ing your next con­fer­ence. 

1. Choose The Right Con­fer­ence
It’s tempt­ing to only attend con­fer­ences where your tribe gath­ers (fel­low mar­keters, archi­tects, engi­neers, etc.). This can be good for team­ing, but also choose con­fer­ences where poten­tial clients gath­er. Ask your cur­rent clients, in your tar­get­ed indus­try, which con­fer­ences they attend. Then con­sid­er who the speak­ers and atten­dees will be. I’ve found that region­al con­fer­ences like SMPS The Wave offers more inti­ma­cy and a high­er con­cen­tra­tion of poten­tial clients than nation­al con­fer­ences.

2. Don’t Just Attend
A great way to build brand aware­ness for your­self and your firm is to be vis­i­ble at a con­fer­ence. The best way to do this is get on the agen­da as a pre­sen­ter. Start with being a pan­elist in a break­out, then a sole pre­sen­ter. Move your way up the food chain to be a pan­elist or keynote speak­er in a main ses­sion. Con­fer­ences typ­i­cal­ly put out a request for pre­sen­ters at least 6 months pri­or to the event. Anoth­er great way to build vis­i­bil­i­ty at a con­fer­ence is to be a spon­sor (but only if this allows for per­son­al intro­duc­tions to VIP orga­niz­ers or atten­dees). Con­sid­er vol­un­teer­ing to help orga­nize the con­fer­ence in a way that allows you to demon­strate your tal­ents, or devel­op a new skill. In short, con­nect your­self to the con­fer­ence to ben­e­fit from the halo effect.

3. Pre-Con­fer­ence Net­work­ing
Con­fer­ences always announce speak­ers before the event as a mar­ket­ing tool. Deter­mine which speak­ers you would like to meet and start fol­low­ing them on Twit­ter or sub­scribe to their newslet­ter. Help to pro­mote their ses­sion at the con­fer­ence by tweet­ing some­thing like “I’m excit­ed to learn from @lecoursdesign at the @SMPStheWave con­fer­ence.” Gen­uine flat­tery will make you more mem­o­rable when you actu­al­ly meet the speak­er at the con­fer­ence. The pre­vi­ous tweet also helps to pro­mote the con­fer­ence itself which might gain you an extra drink tick­et from your new friend, the con­fer­ence orga­niz­er. Con­fer­ences will often pre-announce atten­dees. This is a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to reach out to those you’d like to meet. Pre-arrange meet­ing for a meal, or for cof­fee dur­ing a break, because nobody likes being that lone­ly guy stand­ing around try­ing to look occu­pied.

4. Plan­ning, Goals, and Flex­i­bil­i­ty
Once the con­fer­ence starts, it’s easy to sim­ply fol­low the herd. But you need to be self­ish to make sure your needs are met. Get clear on why you are attend­ing a con­fer­ence before you reg­is­ter. This can be your pur­pose. Then set some goals that will sup­port that pur­pose. For exam­ple, you may want to meet 5 new client prospects, gain 3 new blog ideas, or find 2 poten­tial team­ing part­ners. Look through the con­fer­ence agen­da to make a ten­ta­tive sched­ule for the ses­sions and break­outs you pre­fer to attend. Then be flex­i­ble enough to adapt when Seth Godin asks you to lunch because you pre-con­fer­ence tweet­ed about his ses­sion.

5. Cap­ture Con­tent Dig­i­tal­ly
I am migrat­ing from tak­ing hand­writ­ten notes in a note­book to using a lap­top, and even­tu­al­ly a tablet. My hand­writ­ing can be illeg­i­ble and I often use my notes as con­tent for this blog so going dig­i­tal is more effi­cient. By cap­tur­ing your notes dig­i­tal­ly, you elim­i­nate the inter­me­di­ary step of hav­ing to tran­scribe your notes. This increas­es the shelf life of that con­tent. For visu­als, use your smart phone or dig­i­tal cam­era to cap­ture key slides of a pre­sen­ta­tion. Dig­i­tal video or audio cap­ture is anoth­er great way to make sure you don’t miss a word.

6. Share What You Learned
It’s been said that you don’t real­ly know a sub­ject until you teach it to some­one else. A great way to digest the knowl­edge you con­sumed at the con­fer­ence is to share it with oth­ers. Those that weren’t able to attend the con­fer­ence will appre­ci­ate this. Those that did attend will appre­ci­ate a review, and also hear­ing about alter­nate break­out ses­sions that they were not able to attend. One way to share is to live tweet those nuggets of wis­dom your fol­low­ers would appre­ci­ate. Or, share a blog post about indi­vid­ual ses­sions or high­lights of the entire con­fer­ence.

7. Meet­ing New Peo­ple
A big moti­va­tion for me to attend con­fer­ences is to meet new peo­ple. But as an intro­vert, this can be chal­leng­ing. Intro­duc­ing one­self is awk­ward for most peo­ple. An effec­tive ice­break­er is to ask “what did you think of the pre­vi­ous speaker/session?” or “what’s the best thing you’ve heard at this con­fer­ence?” There is no doubt that you’ll be asked “what do you do?” or “where do you work?” Have a self intro­duc­tion that is intrigu­ing enough that peo­ple will ask fol­low-on ques­tions. For more info on writ­ing a good self intro­duc­tion, click here. A final tip is to eat lunch with peo­ple you don’t know. One of my best friends today is some­one that I met at lunch at a con­fer­ence over five years ago.

8. Absorb As Much As Pos­si­ble
Con­fer­ences can be phys­i­cal­ly, men­tal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly tir­ing. Sleep on the plane or when you get home. Seize every oppor­tu­ni­ty that the con­fer­ence offers to get a full return on your invest­ment. Some of the best con­ver­sa­tions and con­nec­tions get made around the periph­ery of a con­fer­ence. I’m still kick­ing myself for not join­ing a group going out after SMPS The Wave. I missed out on a live mer­maid swim­ming in a giant tank. It even inspired Josh Miles to write a great post How a Mer­maid Got Me Talk­ing About a Brand.

I hope these tips are use­ful for you to get the most out of a con­fer­ence. What have I missed? What are some strate­gies you use when attend­ing a con­fer­ence?

Vis­it Lecours­De­sign at http://​www​.lecours​de​sign​.com/

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