Have you ever left a business conference feeling overloaded and disorganized? What about underwhelmed and regretful you weren’t able to break out of your shell to network? Whichever end of the spectrum you’re on, you’re not alone. Here are some helpful tips for making sure you maximize your experience and reap the biggest benefits when you walk out of the conference venue doors.
1. Break it down to the basics
Business conferences can be overwhelmingly educational. Not to say this is a bad thing – but how do you make sure you’re not missing crucial information through all of the charts, slide shows, videos, pictures and anecdotes?
Make sure you take a minute after each presentation to decide what piece of information really resonated with you. Was there something that gave you that ‘Aha!’ moment? If so, write down a presentation summary at the end of your notes that focuses on that specific tip or insight.
2. Maximize downtime
How many times will you be in a venue with hundreds of people in a related field? There is always an opportunity to meet a great, new contact, whether it’s in line for coffee or making conversation while waiting for a seminar to begin. You cannot be a wallflower at a conference and expect to gain the highest level of benefits.
If you tend to be shy, it’s incredibly helpful to reach out to your contacts before the conference and ask to meet up for lunch, drinks or a coffee. Ask them to bring along two or three of their contacts, so everyone is making a new, beneficial relationship.
3. Stay at the host hotel
This is one guaranteed way to ensure you’re able to get the most from your conference experience by putting you in the middle of the action for the entire duration. This also helps you maximize your conference downtime by allowing you the freedom and convenience to plan a quick meeting during unscheduled conference hours. There could also be a substantial savings for you. Typically, conference organizers will have arranged for bulk, discounted rates with their host hotel. You’ll also save on travel costs between your hotel and the conference venue.
4. Bring plenty of business cards – and take them too!
At its heart, a business conference is a networking opportunity – a great networking opportunity. Make sure you end every beneficial conversation with a swapping of cards.
What’s crucial is making sure those great contacts don’t get lost in the shuffle. An efficient way to avoid this is sorting business cards into two piles. The first pile should be only those associates you need to reconnect with immediately for a specific need. The second pile should be those who you know you benefit from having their information eventually. All other business cards should be discarded.
5. Have a system for following up
We’ve all been there – you walk out of a day-long conference with a notepad full of notes, action items and doodles. You might hold on to it for a week or two, but eventually, the information goes stale. How much valuable data do you end up throwing into the trash?
Keeping your notes organized with action items and essential information separated from inspirational quotes and reminders is key to maximizing the benefit of a conference. If a presenter informs you of a crucial error your company could be making or a great idea for improving a product, make sure this information stands out in your notes. Use different colored ink to write it down, under line it or use a sticky note to highlight it. Immediately after the conference, review your notes and write these critical items in your day planner for follow-up when you get back to your office.