Some people love to attend conferences, but not always for the right reasons. They enjoy being out of the office and away from work. They enjoy the luxury of a night in a hotel, possibly paid for through business expenses. And they enjoy the thrill of being in a new town or city, with all the sights and sounds that come with it. Oh, and then there’s the free food! There’s nothing wrong with any of these things exactly, and you should make the most of some of these opportunities, but to fully make the most of a business conference, there are some other, more important things to do, beyond eating a slap-up meal and relishing a night in a more comfortable bed than your own.
The raison d’etre behind a conference is to grow your business. It’s your opportunity to create a buzz about your product. It’s the opportunity to make valuable connections. And it’s a place to increase your skills and knowledge in your chosen industry. Therefore, follow the tips below, and make the most of your time away.
Find ways to gain visibility. You will be lost in a sea of faces, so you want to find a way to stand out and make an impression. One of the best ways to do this is to take part in the conference itself. If you can become a guest speaker, sharing your business knowledge with others, you will garner both a good reputation for yourself (assuming your talk was up to scratch), and a good reputation for your business. On the other hand, if you are not one of the chosen few to get picked for public speaking (and you may dread the idea anyway), the least you can do is to wear some of your merchandise, from caps and t-shirts to something from customlanyardscanada.com. You might also consider putting up a trade stand, if there is space for such a thing at the conference, giving you a corner of the venue to promote your existence at the event, and to market your business.
Take your employees with you. You could go to the conference on your own, but why should you have all the fun? If you have employees, take some of them with you. Not only will they serve your business well, helping you to market your business with promotional materials and the gift of the gab, but the conference can also help them to grow, equipping them with new ideas and skills that they may not be able to access anywhere else. You will also have time to bond together, so when the meetings are over for the day, and the other delegates have gone to bed, you can still chat to your staff, go out for a few drinks, and grow closer together.
Choose your sessions carefully. Not every session will be for you. Even if you like the speaker, there’s no point going to their session if they are delivering information you are already proficient in. Instead, choose those meetings that will genuinely make a difference to your business and your life. You will come back to work a better person because of it. And if you end up in a session that isn’t quite as useful as you had hoped, then sneak out of the back, and make your way to something you had marked as a backup. It’s about using your time wisely, as you don’t want to waste a minute spending your time in a meeting that is counterproductive to the reasons why you are attending the conference in the first place (assuming you aren’t only there for the comfy bed and free food).
Build relationships with others. Don’t be a wallflower. Especially when going it alone at the conference, it can be difficult to approach others and strike up conversations. But even if you have attended with your team, you should still make the effort to leave the safety bubble of your colleagues, and connect with people you don’t know. You see, you may meet somebody who can shape your business. They may have advice that will prove invaluable. They may have other connections who can strengthen your business. Or they may simply be people who are interesting to speak to, and who may even become a friend, outside of business. You never know who you will meet, so with business cards in hand, market yourself, talk to others, share and receive words of wisdom, and vastly extend your business network.
Record what you learn. It’s easy to sit in a session, get swayed by the powerful swagger of the speaker, and then forget what it is they said afterward. If they have something worthwhile to say, you don’t want to miss a minute of it. While you could sit and make notes, you may miss something important in your rush to write everything down. Therefore, use a recording device, be it something standalone, or through the software on your tablet or smartphone. After the meeting has ended, and you are alone in your hotel room, as well as sampling the goods in the mini bar, spend time going through the recordings, and making notes of anything that is of particular worth to you and your business.
Talk to the guest speakers. You have listened to them deliver a lecture or discussion, but you don’t have to lose them from your grasp when the meeting is over. If you have anything to ask them, and if you want to learn more from them, then hang around at the end of the meeting and introduce yourself to them. If they are busy afterward, you can still thank them for what they said, and then swap contact details so you can get in touch with them later. If they really are experts in their chosen field, these are the people you need to stay in touch with long after the conference has ended, provided they are willing to stay in touch.
Share with your staff. For those team members who didn’t make the conference, ensure you spend time with them when back in the office. Relay what you learned, and take steps with everybody on your team to put into action anything learned from the conference that will benefit your business.
So, the next time you book your place at a conference, consider what we have said. Go for the freebies and time away from the office, but stay for the education and the contacts that will propel you and your business forward. Thanks for reading!