Conferences – you either love them or you hate them. I personally love them. I enjoy learning new things, chatting with other attendees, and discovering new things that I can implement when I go back to work. With the cost of attending conferences, the time off work, and possible travel that is involved, it is important to get the most out of the experience. I have attended three conferences so far this year, and here is my advice if you have a conference coming up in your calendar:
1. Create your conference plan ahead of time. Check out the agenda and make a rough plan of which sessions you want to attend. Choose sessions that are most likely to benefit your business and come prepared with questions to ask the presenters. There is often time for Q&A baked into the session, and the presenters also often stick around for a while after to chat with attendees. Sometimes I attend a session solely because I really like the person presenting and want the opportunity to talk to them after. It is rare to have access to so many experts in your field in one place. Take advantage of all of the knowledge that is in the room.
2. Develop your elevator pitch. What do you do and what do you hope to gain from the conference? This opens up the opportunity for others who you meet there to give you useful feedback or connect you to someone else who may be able to help you. Here is mine from Social Media Week: “Hi, my name is Elena and I am a Social Media Manager for a software company called VMware. I am interested in discovering how to effectively collaborate with influencers in the tech B2B space.” It is also helpful to come into each session you attend with an idea of what you are hoping to learn.
3. Be present. Talk to other attendees. Put your out of office responder on, and deal with your work emails later. I see so many people glued to their phones or computers during breaks rather than talking to other attendees and being in the moment. Using your phone or computer makes you come off as closed off, and people are unlikely to start a conversation with you. Take advantage of the opportunity to engage with other smart people in your industry whom you can learn from. I like to arrive a bit early to sessions, sit next to someone, and ask them what they do or why they chose to attend this session. This is also a great opportunity to use your elevator pitch!
4. Post about the event on social media. I personally like to tweet during events (my Twitter handle is @elenacsalazar). It is a great way to connect with other attendees and share insights with your followers who were not able to attend. Remember to use the conference hashtag and tag the speaker so that your posts are easily discoverable. I posted the tweet below during Terry Rice‘s session on “How to Gain Buy-in from Prospects by Leveraging User Generated Content in Instagram Stories” at Social Media Week LA and it was one of my most engaging tweets of the month so far!
Commenting on or sharing content posted by other attendees is also a great way to start a conversation with someone if you are shy and don’t want to initiate a conversation in person.
5. Share your learnings. In addition to posting insights on social media during the event, write a quick summary of your key takeaways and present to your team when you get back to work so that everyone can benefit from the knowledge you’ve gained.
I hope this helps you get the most out of the next conference you attend. Tell me – do you have any tips to add?