Conventions are an incredibly valuable source for education and networking. But they are also an organized chaos of classes, presentations and trade shows packed with sales people. Navigating your way through the options and the crowd can be overwhelming. You paid good money to be there, so how do you make the most of your visit? Let’s look at some ways to prepare yourself to maximize your time and get the most out of the convention’s offerings.
Before the convention
Determine what you want to get out of your visit. Do you want to learn about specific topics? See certain vendors? This will help you prioritize and keep focused at the convention.
Create your own schedule. Check out the schedule of events and classes on the convention’s website, pick out the ones you really want to attend and create a schedule just for you.
Prioritize your must-sees and backups, and keep yourself flexible.
Study up. Check out the list of presenters and tradeshow vendors online beforehand. Learning more about these groups upfront allows you time at the conference to ask deeper, more specific questions.
Prep yourself. Charge your devices. Dress comfortably. Bring something to take notes on and carry things in (like all that sweet swag!).
During the convention
Tap into the technology. Does the convention have an app? This is a great way to follow schedules, hear about changes and connect with other attendees.
Network smart. Bring your business cards/resume. Branch out from your group, and sit with someone new at breaks.
Think quality over quantity: Aim to meet the presenters and leaders versus the crowd.
Go to the after parties for added face time with the people you want to connect with.
Attend the trade show. Exhibitors have tons of helpful information and tools for you. Visit the booths you think could fill a gap in your business. Many vendors also offer free trials or “show discounts” on products – a fantastic way to test out systems to build your business.
Gather materials and business cards. Grab fliers, handouts and business cards from classes and trade show vendors. If you talk directly with a representative, make notes on the flier or card about what you thought so you can remember and review later.
After the convention
Follow up. You’ve met key people and exchanged business cards, now is the time to build the relationship. Keep connections for future business, friendships and knowledge exchange.
Evaluate. You’ve taken in a lot over the past couple days – what did you take away? Take some time to think about, and even write down, the ideas, programs and systems you liked and want to fit into your business model.
Act. Gather the info you collected for these and set a time in your calendar to call the presenter who motivated you or sign up for the system that will leverage your time. It’s also beneficial to do this at the end of each convention day to capture your discussions while they’re still fresh.
Do you have other tips on making the most of your convention experience? Share them in the comments.