Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Networking Catalyst". He regularly speaks at industry conventions and trade shows where he inspires the audience (and vendors) to maximize their participation at the event. One of the top reasons people attend business conferences is for the "Networking Opportunities", and yet once there they fail to create connections that will have any meaningful impact on their career. Thom sets the tone for the culture of the conference which becomes the foundation for a more meaningful set of interactions.
Maximize Your Conference (Part 2)
by Thom Singer
When you decide to attend a conference it is a commitment of your time and attention. In order to receive the most value from participating in the event you must be present and actively engaged.
When you plan your travel arrangements make sure that you arrive in time for the opening and that you do not leave early. Very often people look at the schedule of a multi-day conference and make decisions to shave off part of their time to accommodate a better flight (or other priority). The problem with that is that you might be missing the most important part and you would never know it.
A conference is a mini-community. If you are not attending the opening ceremonies you will miss out on shared experiences that will be discussed, joked about and understood by all the other people. Leaving early could cause you to miss a powerful nugget of information from a speaker or connecting with others at the final social gathering. The "final good-byes" expose you to how others feel about their desire to continue to an ongoing relationship. If you are not there, they will focus their attention on others. You cannot predict in advance when or where you will find the highest value at a conference, thus you need to participate for the whole time to get the most from your investment.
The same is true for the time in between. Very often people review the agenda and make decisions to blow-off large portions of the conference schedule. They either go to their hotel room to work (or sleep), or jet off property to golf, visit friends, or sight-see around the city. The problem is that the purpose for being at the conference (and the reason that your boss is investing the money) is for your education and networking opportunities. When you are not present, you are undermining your ROI. If the conference schedule is not value based, then do not attend in the first place.
Being away from the convention area means you are not an engaged member of the community. This will limit your chance to be invited to off-hours social events, VIP parties, dinner groups, etc... If you are not interacting with other attendees you will be left behind. People spend time with those they know, like and trust. If you are late to arrive, run to your room during breaks, and skipping the happy hour, you will be a conference ghost.
Additionally, when you are there you must be present in your mind. Pay attention to the speakers and be attentive to those you are having conversations. Allowing your mind to wander and being aloof will mean that you will not be approachable to others. Smile, listen, ask questions, and be excited to be there and you will draw other people to you.
You owe it to your company, who is funding your participation, to actually participate!
Have A Great Day.