Inman Connect San Francisco marks the kickoff to our industry’s busy conference season each year. As we all gear up for several months of booking flights, packing suitcases, and tweaking presentations — here are some tips to help you make the most of your own conference experience.
- Set your objectives and goals. What are you hoping to get out the conference — new industry connections? A better social media strategy? A new advertising platform? Identifying your objectives and goals upfront will help you prioritize and spend your time wisely.
- Plan meetings ahead of time. Depending on the length of the conference, pick three to six people with whom you’d really like to meet, and reach out to them a week or two prior to the conference to get on their calendars. At the same time, be realistic with your time and try to avoid overbooking your schedule. You never know when you might connect with someone new or run into an old friend you didn’t expect to see. Keep things somewhat flexible so you can grab a spontaneous cup of coffee or dinner.
- Get packing. Put together a checklist so you don’t forget networking necessities like fresh business cards, batteries/chargers, your preferred device for note-taking (e.g., laptop, iPad, notebook), snacks, and agenda (Pro tip: download the conference app if there is one).
Network and Learn
- Get #social. Don’t forget to share your experience with your online followers. Sharing photos and videos on social media and live tweeting is a great way to share your experience with your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat followers. For example, share one new tip you learned each day via an Instagram video. Browsing and using the official conference hashtag in your posts will also help you stay in the loop and conversation.
- Be flexible. As we mentioned earlier, try not to overwhelm your schedule. Conferences are a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. At Inman Connect SF, Audie Chamberlain from Lion & Orb shared the conference tip to “stay an extra day and have lunch with someone you just met.”
- Enjoy it! As hectic and jam-packed as a conference can feel, don’t forget to enjoy it. It’s a great opportunity for personal and professional development. This is your time away from your clients, the office, and your daily routine – so make sure you soak it up.
Follow-up and Reflect
- Share your insights and takeaways. Now that you’re back in the office with your notes and “aha moments,” share them! Create a Google doc to dump all of your big takeaways and notes for your team to read. Schedule a brainstorming session so you can give your team a conference summary, share ideas and hear their thoughts. Taking the time to reflect on who you’ve met and what you’ve learned can help you effectively implement these new tips and ideas into your business.
- Follow up, follow up, follow up. This might be our most important post-conference tip. It’s extremely important to follow up with the people you met. Whether it’s a brief email, handwritten note, or LinkedIn invitation, make sure to follow up within 3-5 days. After all, relationships don’t grow from just seeing someone twice a year at a conference.
- Decide if you’ll go again. As you reflect on your time at the conference, think about whether it’s worth attending again. Did you like the size? Was the information shared new or relevant to you? Were the attendees and vendors people with whom you could do business? Hopefully the conference was everything you expected and more. And perhaps next time you’ll want to bring some of your team members to share the experience!
Attending an upcoming conference? Check our conference map to see if we’ll be there!