5 Tips for a Successful Conference

by Lauren Schneidewind on April 21, 2016

Searching for conferences can be an exciting experience, especially if you love the location. There are more tech conferences that I can count these days, so finding one shouldn’t be difficult. However, what is difficult is finding ones that will pay off. Conferences have a big allure to them because of all of the “Awesome” events and celebrity endorsements; however, they can sometimes fall short on the pay-off scale. In order to increase your success at these events, try these 5 tips:

Networking, Networking, Networking

This is the number one most important aspect of business development. I go to conferences not for the items and things to do during the conference circuit, but for the people that attend them. My typical goal is to meet as many people as possible; however the return on investment isn’t all that great. It can feel good with a bag full of business cards to follow-up on, but this can miss the point. It is better to get fewer cards, AND make more meaningful relationships. My goal for a conference now is to typically make 2-4 meaningful relationships. This approach is going back to the quality over quantity, which seems to go out the door at these mega conferences.

Pre-Conference List/Attendee List

Most conferences provide an attendee list as well as the sponsor/exhibitor list. This piece of information can be worth the price of admission itself. Get this list and comb through it BEFORE the conference. This is just like doing your research before a job interview. In order to increase success, go into the situation prepared. Search for those ideal companies or products and find the right connections. Another great way to ensure optimal success is to contact these people before the conference. Let them know you will be there and to expect you to stop by and say hello. This pre-email hello is a great way to get people to remember you, compared to all of the other people just stopping by without sending out that intro email the week before. This also sets you up for sending a follow-up conversation after the event. Once again, this provides an edge because you already have a relationship with the person, compared to the hundreds of other people that they meet at the conference.

Attend Afterhours Cocktails/Dinners

The dinners and networking cocktails are my best area for success at conferences. This environment is a bit more relaxed than the expo floor, where everyone wants to talk about his or her idea/product and tell you how they are going to make the world a better place. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sales floor, but I rarely find great leads here. I like to pace myself during the day too and make sure I still have enough energy to attend the after-hours networking events. During these events, most people are there to network and are more willing to have a better rounded conversation compared to the expo floor. One of my best tips for successful networking is to learn how to spot your ideal customer. The nicest dressed people in the room are probably in sales and they are there to sell something to you. I love finding the people that stand out a bit in the crowd, the ones that are off to the side a bit. I like finding the people that might not be the most comfortable in the room, because chances are they are there for a reason, to find a solution. Find out what works best for you. I work as a consultant building web apps; I look for the people that aren’t in suits and ties and are typically a little socially awkward…just like me. ☺

Set Goals

Setting goals may seem overkill at a conference, because aren’t we all there to go to the conference? By making goals, we are setting ourselves up for more success. Conferences are a great place for great ideas, but going in without a clear game plan one can get lost in the aura of conference overload. Two of my goals for CollisionConf 2016 are to make 2-4 meaning relationships and to come up with 5 cool new product ideas. They can be that simple. When goals are clear and direct, we have a greater chance at achieving them.

Conference Overload

A conference is just like Mardi Gras, in order to make it the whole week, pace yourself. We are running a marathon not a sprint. I personally have to get up and take a 15-minute break every 1-2 hours. My brain hurts and I get burned out after the first day if I try to rush to every event and absorb everything I hear.

What are your tips for conference success? We are prepping for CollisionConf in New Orleans next week; will we see you there?

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