What You Need to Know About Attending Your First Conference
You’re about to attend your very first conference? How exciting! You’ll want to make the most of it, learning everything you can, and networking to your best advantage. If the prospect seems overwhelming, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with these helpful tips on maximizing the benefits of your first conference.
- Pack light, but remember the essentials. If it’s an established event, you can easily stalk the website to see what people are wearing. If not, bring some professional-looking basics that can be dressed up or down, as the occasion warrants. Don’t bother bringing notebooks and pens, as they’ll be provided for you, but do bring a large collapsible bag, into which you’ll put all the papers, freebies, and general swag you accumulate during the conference. One absolute “must” on your packing list is business cards, and it’s also smart to download the LinkedIn mobile app. If you’re going to pitch your product to anyone while you’re there, bring demo materials to make your presentation more effective. Don’t forget your chargers, and keep your devices charged during the event, so that you don’t have to be tethered to an outlet when you should be interacting.
- Know before you go. Study the agenda so you’ll be able to set goals for yourself at the conference and devise a plan to meet them. Attend all the conference-wide events, then carefully consider the smaller sessions, determining which ones will be most useful to you. If you can walk around the space ahead of time to get oriented, that can be helpful. If not, make sure to study a map so you’ll know how to get around. Find out who will be attending, perhaps by finding the event’s Facebook page or Twitter hashtag. That way you can make plans to touch base with peers and customers, and maybe even book some time with prospects so that you can have their full attention for a few minutes. Plan to get to the event early, so you maximize your time by registering before it starts.
- Have a strategy, so you can learn as much as possible. There will be a ton of information, packed into a short amount of time. By staying organized, you can retain most of what you’ve learned and keep yourself on track. Write notes on the back of business cards to remind you of conversations you had with the people whose names are on the cards. For sessions, consider digital note-taking, or at least make sure your notes are organized so that they’ll make sense once you’re home from the conference. Sit as close to the front as you can in the sessions you attend, and attend as many sessions as you can.
- Plan to interact. Remember, conferences are about more than just presentations. Networking is an important part of the opportunity you’re afforded at a conference. Make sure that you don’t just hang around with people you know; you’ll learn more by interacting with your competition, colleagues, and the thought leaders in your industry. Make sure to briefly meet each speaker you listen to, as well as the conference organizers. Strategize even your meal times: don’t eat lunch with your friends, choosing instead to make new acquaintances at the conference lunches, then choose people you’d like to know better to invite out to dinner. Try to connect with both existing customers and potential prospects, focusing on providing information rather than closing deals. Make sure to take the time to walk the exhibition floor, because you may be able to get free products and services for your business, as well as interesting swag. The after-parties, too, can be a wealth of information, as long as you stay sober, get to know people, and don’t leave the party early. Don’t neglect the social media aspect of conferences, tagging your tweets and Instagram posts to further connect you with the event.
- Don’t stop thinking about the conference as soon as it ends. Review the information you’ve collected while it’s still fresh in your mind, and share it with colleagues to whom it will be relevant. Immediately after the conference is also the best time to follow up with the people you met at the conference, while you’re all still fresh in each other’s minds.
If you’re in a position to weigh on the place where your conference will be held, it’s important to find a location that’s equipped with the right technology and tools to facilitate learning. At Texas Training and Conference Centers, we pride ourselves on the high-quality equipment and exceptional service you’ll find at our training facilities. Our computer labs and other spaces come equipped with internet accessibility, printers and fax machines, Wi-Fi setup, on-site tech support, full projection systems, workstations, whiteboards, and computers furnished with the most cutting edge technology, to ensure that your training event is a success. Soundproof rooms, continental breakfast, and optional catered lunches are just a few of the other ways we provide the little niceties that make a big difference for your event. For the past 18 years, we’ve provided exceptional service to businesses throughout Houston, and we have the expertise to help you make your event a success. To learn more about Texas Training and Conference Centers, call us at 832.982.1708 or contact us through our website.