6 Ways to Prepare for Your Next Conference Like a Pro
Staying organized will help you get the most out of any event.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
If you already do a fair amount of business travel - and are among the 15 percent of execs who say they are burned out on such travel - then a conference can be a chore. If you're an introvert, extended period of glad-handing and small talk can be wearying.
On the other hand, if you love events, then you may not realize that they're taking their toll. Too many nights of sub-standard sleep and partying can catch up to you. Since these events typically run three days or more, it's important to plan as much as you can. Leaving an event feeling exhausted is not fun.
There was a point in time years ago in which I was attending a different conference, summit or business event almost every week. Over the years, I've learned to be far more selective about which conferences warrant my attention while filtering out the rest. I've also learned that by preparing in advance, I can get the most out of the events I do choose to attend.
Here are my top six suggestions to help you thrive at events and maximize productivity while there:
1. Use your personality to its best advantage.
Are you an introvert? Do you draw energy from being with others or do you need to recharge by yourself? If you need to recharge, then schedule breaks for yourself.
Realize that this will be a challenge and pace yourself. Building in those moments of downtime can help you stay recharged.
2. Prepare your office to work without you.
You don't want to spend thousands of dollars to attend an event and then waste time doing stuff you can do back at the office. Prepare your staff that you'll be out and get what you need from your team ahead of time.
I always use an away message for my email that directs inquiries to a chosen point person at the office.
3. Set up meetings in advance.
A little planning ahead of time goes a long way.
To maximize time at events, setup meetings in advance with key prospects or targets. This reduces stress which helps to keep your energy and enthusiasm high.
Also, either connect with your targets on LinkedIn, Twitter or Skype ahead of time so that you can directly message them on their phone while at the event. I've found this incredibly helpful at conferences that are spread out across large hotels or various locations.
Texting or instant messaging a target or key contact while there can help you have that critical in-person connection that might have not otherwise happened.
4. Get there a day before to get a lay of the land.
I always get in a day early to get a lay of the land and see where everything is. I find that it helps me relax and ease into the first day's events.
I don't understand people who fly in the day of. That's a harried way to start what could be a three- or four-day event. And, then there's a decent chance that your flight will be delayed so it makes sense to plan on being there early.
5. Complete the event profile.
Nearly every conference or event these days has an app with a profile setting. It might seem like too much work to have to complete the profile with all of your contact details, headshot and social media but it is well worth it.
I'm amazed how few people take advantage of event apps. With a completed profile and solid engagement with the app while at the event, these tools can be used as much for promotion while you're at the event than walking around the event itself.
6. Force yourself to stay organized.
There's so much information to process at these events and you exchange so many business cards that it's easy to lose track of everything. This lack of organization can be another source of stress.
As an extreme organizer, my tactic is to take notes while I'm at the event to have everything detailed for my reference later. I use the notes function on my phone, take pics of business cards and text myself, and I use the voice memo function on my phone as well, among other techniques. When you're at an event, pretend you're the guy from Memento who has no short-term memory - your brain will thank you later.
Depending on who you are, an event can be a lot of fun or a necessary evil. For most of us, it falls somewhere in between. But preparing beforehand, pacing yourself and focusing on why you're there and staying organized will help you get the most out of any event and you can do it without overtaxing yourself - at least not too much - so you'll be ready for the next one.