Not dissimilar to a big game, vacation, or even Christmas, the time leading up to a conference can be filled with anxiety (the good kind hopefully) and excitement!
Say sponsoring a session, presenting, or setting up shop behind a booth just isn’t your thing. Hey attendee! There’s so much juice that can be squeezed from conference attendance, but you have to do some of the leg work. Here are some of the best tips to get the most out of your trip:
Prep & Prepare
Most conference will publish their key speakers, events, and even the full schedule ahead of time. Block out some time to read through all that conference material, and begin to map out what sessions are of interest to you, the vendors you’d like to meet, the keynotes you don’t want to miss, etc. Sometimes, especially with larger events, the schedule can be overwhelming and you simply don’t have the time to read through all the options once you’re on-site. Take the time on the plane or in your Uber to make some notes. You’ll feel much more prepared going into the event.
The planners of the bunch take it one step further. Scope out the restaurants closest to your hotel. If your sponsoring (and HERE’S why you might consider it), send any swag you may want to give out ahead of time if don’t anticipate space in your baggage, and don’t forget the business cards!
Indulge our Friends in Sales
Sponsors and vendors are out there to connect with you; it’s literally the purpose of their attendance. While yes, they typically follow up the restaurant rec with the sales pitch, here’s an idea: let them! Maybe, just maybe you may actually need the product or service that vendor is pitching. Maybe not now, but perhaps sometime down the road? I’m still able to notice a Vyond video when I see one. If you’re familiar with the vendors in the expo hall, that’s one more thing you have in common with the other attendees at the conference and can use to break the ice down the road.
Especially if you’re attending the conference alone, find a buddy! You’ll start to notice that folks who may have similar interests or roles as you might frequent the same sessions or coffee stands. Say hi! Make the introduction and see what you can learn about one another. It’s great to have a buddy especially if there are overlapping sessions; one of you attends one and the other, the second and you can swap session notes. The purpose of conferences is to connect with others (literally on social) in your industry and learn together. It might be out of your comfort zone but making just one buddy can be counted as a success.
Need help finding a buddy? Have you ever noticed people with gum get really popular when they whip it out? Use this to your advantage and offer someone a stick of gum as an icebreaker.
Channel your inner Amy Krouse Rosenthal and say YES. You’re typically only in that conference for a few days, so say yes to the post-event happy hour and the pre-event yoga hour. These “extra” events are where you can form the most genuine connections and have the most success. Plus, if you’ve ever been on the planning side for events like these, you know all the hard work that goes into attending them, so say “yes, I will be there.”
Finally, we’re all social marketers here. Similar to the Say YES piece above, there’s a lot of work that goes into marketing events, too! Follow, engage, post, contribute on all platforms! All your other responsibilities can wait (hopefully) so make the most of the experience by putting those social skills to work FOR YOU this time. It’s kind of refreshing.
Throw up an Instagram story, live-tweet EVERYTHING (HERE are some tips if you need them), write a presentation reflection and publish it as a LinkedIn article, collect “in-the-wild” content, and fall back in love with social media. We know you’ve been meaning to beef up your personal SM presence so here’s your opportunity!
Conference season is upon us once more, and it’s so, so much more fun to be back in person. However you choose to approach conferences, remember to have fun and schedule your social posts ahead of time so you can be 100% present!
P.S. This blog post is the third installment of our “Conference Content” series. Look back at the previous two to learn how to pick the right conference for you, and how to determine whether or not you should sponsor the event.