A Is for Advance
Long before you arrive at a trade show, convention, conference or seminar you should create a game plan for how your will maximize your investment of time and money in the event. Too many people show up at these multi-day events without having given any thought about how to best utilize their time.
When you "wing it", you fail.
All business gatherings you attend should bring you a mix of learning and networking opportunities. Most meeting organizers publish their agendas weeks (or months) in advance, and work hard to promote the keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and other events. Study the agenda and make decisions in advance as to what is the most important parts of the schedule to allow you to reach your pre-determined objective outcomes.
Do not just look at the educational part of the event, but also the social aspects. One of the main reasons people attend business gatherings is to meet other influential people in their industry. However most never seem to make any long-lasting meaningful connections at conferences. If "networking opportunities" are important to you (and they should be), then you must make them a priority, too.
Start early to discover who will be at the events you will be attending. Join the online social media communities that the organizers have established on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other locations. Discover if the event has a pre-determined Twitter "hashtag" and begin following the discussions about the event. Learn about the other attendees by reading their online profiles and following them in social media communities (where appropriate).
It has become very common for conference organizers to offer pre-event webinars, videos, white papers, etc... Take advantage of these valuable tools that will allow you to prepare for the whole event and be on the same page with other attendees.
When you research and identify interesting people who will be present at the physical event reach out to them in advance and let them know that you will be there, too, and that you look forward to meeting them face-to-face.
Contact vendors, clients, prospects and other and agree to a time to meet. Leaving it to chance with a "I hope to see you there" might mean you will never connect. Arrange to get together for happy-hour meet ups or agree to sit together at meals, and then follow up to confirm you appointment.
Having clear focus on how to spend you time, and a list of people you want to meet will help you succeed in maximizing your attendance at a conference.
One reminder: Do not make your plan so rigid that you are not open to spontaneous meet ups or changing your break out attendance when a new opportunity arrives.
Have A Great Day.
Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections. http://www.conferencecatalyst.com