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 3)
Have A Plan
by Thom Singer
Showing up at a multi-day conference without a plan is a fast way to leave opportunity behind. Before you arrive at the conference you should have previewed the schedule of events and determined the "must see" speakers and mapped out which concurrent sessions you will attend.
Most conferences have several breakout presentations taking place at the same time, and this means you have to make choices. If you are traveling with a co-worker or close friend you should work together to examine the schedule and then "divide and concur". By splitting up and hearing from different speakers you can then later re-group and share what you learned.
Knowing when and where the breaks, happy hours and meals are being held will also allow you to plan for getting any other work done that you must do. While I do suggest that you focus on the conference while there, there will be things that need your attention back at the office or last minute emergencies that will require your input. When you are fully aware of the schedule before you arrive you will know what things are your higher priorities and at what time you can tend to other issues.
Additionally you want to determined in advance when the calendar has allotted for "free time". May multi-day conferences have an "off" night when attendees are left to their own plans. If you wait until the last minute to make arrangements you could find yourself eating alone. The best thing to do is to reach out to a few contacts a few weeks before the event and organize a group of people for a causal gathering for dinner or drinks.
You can make reservations at a nearby restaurant a weeks in advance to ensure your group can get a table. I suggest that include a few extra seats in your head-count when you make your reservations to ensure you can accommodate last minute people who you and your dinner companions might meet at the conference. It is always easier for a restaurant to shrink your table than it is to expand the number of chairs.
(*Remember, if your plans do change and your group decides to dine elsewhere, call the restaurant and cancel your table. Common courtesy is always important to remember. Another ideas is to offer the reservation to another group of people at the conference looking for a place to eat. They will be thrilled to have VIP reservations and you will be the hero. A call to the restaurant to tell them that the contact person for the group has changed is also a good idea).
Fully knowing the flow of the schedule will allow you to maximize your time and also prepare for spontaneous opportunities to network. Many vendors and other companies in attendance at the event will be hosting private parties in local bars and hotel suites. Being aware of the schedule and flexible with your plan will also allow you to take advantage of last minute invitations to some cool extra activities that you might not have even known were taking place.
(*If you are invited to any hosted events, remember to thank the executives from the hosting organization and the person who invited you. Too often people take these corporate parties for granted and have an attitude of entitlement. When you are grateful for being included you will be invited back next year!)
The same is true for reviewing the list of vendors who will be exhibiting and planning for whom you want to visit in the trade show area. I will talk more about that in a later blog post in this series.
Your investment in time to study the schedule and plan how you will spend your time at a conference will allow you to accomplish more and maximize your experience while attending.
Have A Great Day.