When you’re attending a conference in any capacity for your business or career, it’s a great time to accomplish quite a few specific goals. You want to ensure you make the most of your time there and that it’s something that creates value for you well into the future.
The following are some things to keep in mind before attending a professional conference so that you maximize every available opportunity.
Dress the Part
There are key elements when choosing your conference apparel to keep in mind. What you wear matters because you want to look professional and as if you’re comfortable within your industry. The industry you’re in plays a big role in what you’re expected to wear.
For example, if you’re in the tech industry, you can get away with more casual clothes compared to being in the medical or science industries.
If you’re going to be giving a presentation or participating onstage in any event, you’ll likely want to wear something a little more formal than you would otherwise.
If you’re going to be running a booth, make sure that you create an easily recognizable, unified look with everyone else on your team. You want to achieve looking both polished and also approachable.
When you look the part, you’re ultimately going to feel more prepared and confident, so don’t underestimate how important this is.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Before you go to a conference in an industry event, you want to do certain things. First, you want to have goals for what you hope to achieve while you’re there personally. It would help if you also had a strategy for how you’ll meet your goals.
Write down your goals, which help you stay focused on them.
You also want to be prepared to get the most out of sessions and particular conference elements, speak to other people, and network.
Have an elevator pitch for yourself that will help you build your network. An elevator pitch should be a short, engaging speech that lets people know quickly who you are and what you have to offer.
When you’re preparing, go over the schedule for the entire conference and prioritize what sessions you most want to attend, so you can be sure you don’t miss those.
If you have extra time to do more, that’s great, but at least you’ll know regardless you’ve done the things that are most relevant and impactful to you.
You really want to focus on being strategic with your time. Connect how you spend your time with your goals for the conference and your career in general.
If you don’t plan ahead and aren’t prepared to be strategic with your time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at industry events.
Get Visibility If Given the Opportunity
One of the best ways to maximize your experience at a conference is to actively participate if you’re given the opportunity. You’re going to be giving yourself visibility to a larger audience. A presenter or facilitator of a session is great, of course, but you can also be a volunteer.
If you aren’t sure whether these opportunities exist and you can’t find the information online, contact the organizer of the event.
The more visible the role you have, the more you’re setting yourself apart and maximizing the time you’re spending at the event.
Even outside of a formal role, you can participate in sessions that you choose. For example, offer a comment or ask questions when you have them. Even if it’s outside of your comfort zone, try to be an active participant whenever you can.
Don’t Forget to Cultivate Your Existing Relationships
We often think about conferences as being a way to make new relationships and network in that sense. This is important, but you also want to find time to work on your existing relationships and make sure they’re as strong as they can be. Reach out to people you know will be attending and see if you can find time to get together.
Go to the Social Events
At conferences, there are always various informal social events you can participate in. A lot of people might opt out of these but going has benefits. First, it can help you connect with people more closely if you do so in an informal setting. You can also have fun, and you’ll feel some of the enthusiasm of the event and your industry as a whole. You might find it motivating.
Many people find informal networking at social events is actually more valuable than the sessions and formal elements of a conference.
Go Into It with an Open Mind
When you attend industry events and business conferences, go into them with an open mind and a sense of optimism about what you might get out of it. You don’t know who you might meet or what you could learn. Be ready to learn, hear different points of view, and improve your networking skills.
You should also be actively engaged throughout and listen carefully to what’s being said. Consider taking notes to help the information resonate with you.
While you’re at it, put your phone away when you’re in sessions or events. You can look at it later, but you need to be fully present if you want to make the most of your time at a conference.
Follow Up Afterward
Making the most of a conference doesn’t end when the event does.
You want to make sure that you’re following up on LinkedIn or by email if possible. Send a personal note to the people you connected with, letting them know that you enjoyed getting the chance to meet them. You might even want to pursue a phone call or face-to-face meeting if there’s anyone, in particular, you’d like to develop a relationship with.
Keep an eye on similar future events you might want to attend, and be prepared to sell these events to your boss, letting them know what you gained from attending the last one and how that benefits the entire business.