Leaving the office for several days to attend a conference can be a big undertaking. Some simple preparation will help you can take away more valuable info and really focus on the message being delivered. Brush up on who will be attending and why they are relevant to the industry so you can identify targets for networking effectively.
Though it might be tempting to save some money by booking a hotel “just a little ways away” from the conference site, think twice. You might be saving money on the room but will ground transportation be reliable enough to get you where you need to go on time in the morning? What if you forget something in your room that you need for the afternoon? How late can you get a ride back to your hotel room if you stay for a networking event or evening session? Plus by staying offsite you have the potential to miss untold networking opportunities – whether it’s a gathering of industry folks in the lounge or an industry leader riding an elevator with you. Before you book, take advantage of cardholder benefits (like travel planning) from your American Express card or leverage other business partnerships to be sure you’re getting a great rate at the best location. You’d be surprised what vendors you work with everyday can offer you so brush up on your benefits before you hit the road.
Forgetting Business Cards
Don’t be the guy who has to scribble his name and phone number on a ratty cocktail napkin. You will meet people you want to keep in touch with whether for business or personal reasons. Colleen A. Rickenbacher of ReliablePlant.com recommends that networkers pack plenty of business cards and then grab another handful before you close your suitcase. It’s also a good idea to prepare a set of business cards with additional information like a cell phone number or linked in profile address. Don’t miss valuable opportunities because you don’t have a card, or a pen, or a stable surface to write on. A great first impression won’t last long if you can’t even deliver your contact information efficiently.
Conferences are as much about networking and relationship-building as they are about learning. Don’t show up in a battered t-shirt and jeans if everyone else will be wearing polished polos. Wearing appropriate attire isn’t square or stuffy, it’s a sign of respect for all those you come in contact with.
Secondly: layer, layer, layer. Temperatures can fluctuate in meeting rooms and break areas. Being uncomfortable makes it hard to focus so don’t get into a situation where you are shivering instead of learning.
Loose Lips Sink Ships
Nothing will ruin your opportunities for networking and overall success faster than being overheard saying nasty, thoughtless or catty things about your colleagues. You never know who might overhear you trashing the last presenter while you get a refill on your coffee. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all – it’s the golden rule for a reason!
Same goes for social media, and doubly so since what you put online can be shared quickly and mercilessly. Don’t burn bridges with inane negative comments and be sure to share positive helpful ideas. Jodi Schaap of MyTurnstone.com says that it’s a good idea to share ideas and try to collaborate with other presenters whenever possible. The idea of a conference is to branch out and network, so remember that and avoid being tempted puff yourself up too much.
Ava is a freelance writer from Maine.