Best Tips For A Great Conference Experience
Business conferences or summits provide great value but they can be overwhelming if you are unprepared. These events are usually filled with speaker panels, networking sessions, interactive workshops and more.
So, how do you make the most of your conference experience without being overwhelmed or getting lost in the crowd?
Do not wander through the crowd hoping to meet your favourite speaker or worse, finally meet them and forget what you wanted to discuss.
In this guide, we will provide some of the best tips to overcome traditional summit woes and achieve a great conference experience.
Focus Your Goals
The first thing you should do before you even start travelling to a conference is to focus on your goals and establish what you want to get out of the event.
Are you hoping to build your business connections? Do you want to gain more industry knowledge? Or, maybe you are hoping to pitch a new strategy to like-minded individuals and receive feedback?
Whatever your reason for attending is, setting specific goals beforehand will help you focus during the event and accomplish more.
Plan Your Day
Our next tip is to plan your day. Many summits have different programs set up and some of them overlap so you must research the topics and prioritize which ones you will attend.
Besides planning the actual panel sessions you will attend, you also need to think about what you will need for a full day of networking and learning.
Here are a few of the things we suggest:
- Extra pens
- Power bank or extra chargers
- Hand Sanitizer
- Hand Lotion
- A light jacket (even in the summer)
For a list of more things to pack and other travel tips, check out our guide for business travellers.
Utilise Online Resources
In the months/weeks leading up to the conference, take advantage of any online resources offered. Each of our events has a subscription area at the bottom of the page that helps you stay up to date on event changes.
Simply enter your full name and email and then you will be alerted if a speaker is added or removed, if social activities are added, etc.
We also provide individual LinkedIn groups for each summit as a resource before the summit. The event chairman, keynote speakers and other industry executives are all added to these groups well in advance of the summit.
These groups are a great place to connect with the other attendees of the conference and share challenges or ideas before or after the event.
LinkedIn also has a great nearby feature to use during the conference.
Connect With Your Internal Team
Companies do not always have the budget or resources to send more than one representative to an event. If you are the lucky one chosen to attend, connect with your internal team before you leave.
See what issues they are facing or what questions they want answered and then take that with you to the conference.
Schedule Time With Speakers
As we mentioned earlier, the schedules during these events are usually packed and even during the “free time” you have speakers can be approached by many different people, making it hard to establish a genuine connection with them.
To help avoid this, connect with the speakers before the summit and try to schedule one-on-one time with them. Even if it is grabbing coffee or lunch, this creates valuable time for you to get your questions answered.
We mentioned our LinkedIn groups that provide a platform for you to connect with speakers or attendees on but you can connect through any social media channel. Tweet at the speaker you are most excited to meet and watch the relationship evolve from there.
We also have a complete guide on how to utilise Twitter before, during and after the conference.
Have A Networking Plan
Having a networking plan is vital to your success at a conference or summit, yet most people still show up to an event without one.
Maybe you are thinking – I will just show up and meet a bunch of people. While you can easily accomplish that, it does not create a solid foundation to build those relationships on. Either you or your new connection will possibly forget the meeting ever occurred because you meet so many people over a few days.
Establish a plan with whom you want to meet, questions you need answered and successful examples to add to the conversation. By researching and preparing this information, you create valuable topics to discuss which creates a more memorable experience for everyone.
Have Notes Ready
While notetaking can be a huge asset during conferences, it can also be a distraction if not prepared properly. Hopefully, by now you know your preferred method of notetaking but if not, we suggest practising a few different ways in your regular meetings and then deciding which way works best for you.
Notetaking should be easy to do during the moment while not distracting from the information being shared and it needs to be easily understood when looking over the information later.
The agenda for each summit is finalized well in advance so you can section off your notebook or note-taking app into individual speaker sections or by topic. The agenda also breaks down the discussion topic for each speaker so you can outline questions or important notes relating to the topic.
Prepping your notes beforehand can help eliminate distractions during the keynote speaker panels but the biggest distractions most likely come from your laptop or mobile device. Set an out of office email before the summit starts so your connections know you are engaging in an important industry event and they can expect a delayed response.
Also, set your phone to silent. Even having it on vibrate can take you or people around you out of the moment and cause the focus to shift.
There are several great note-taking apps for your phone, tablet or computer but if using these devices is causing more distraction than productivity, take handwritten notes.
Take Advantage Of Informal Times
We schedule many different networking opportunities throughout our summits but that does not mean that is your only opportunity to connect with speakers or attendees. Look for informal opportunities like elevator rides, morning coffee or late night events.
Be respectful of that person’s time but if the moment presents itself, take advantage of it! This also goes back to researching the speakers, their company and the topic they are discussing.
Offer to buy them coffee, lunch or a cocktail to really stand out and make an impression. Even with all the hustle and bustle of the event, people have to eat so this is a great chance to connect one-on-one in an informal setting.
Explore and Have Fun
Our last tip for having a great conference experience is to get out of the venue and have fun. We keep mentioning how busy these events are but it can be very rewarding to schedule in some additional time to explore the city.
We host summits in Berlin, Barcelona, Amsterdam and other incredible cities around Europe so find other attendees to explore with or trek out alone. Each city has something great to offer and these experiences plus all of the valuable knowledge and partnerships you will gain at the summit are invaluable.
We hope you have found this guide helpful and you arrive at your next business conference feeling confident and then leave with outstanding, lasting memories.
Looking for business conferences to attend or speak at? Check out our upcoming events and register today!