Attending a trade show or other business conference is not just about time you spend at the event itself. The work you put in before and after attending will be what ensures your successful return on investment. Too many people simply show up and then go home... then question if they really got the maximum impact out of their participation.
Spending the time in advance to create a plan for who you want to meet and what sessions you want to attend is key. When you have clients, prospects and other contacts who you know, or suspect, will be present it is smart to reach out to them a few weeks before the event. Schedule times to meet for conversations and / or sitting together for keynotes or at meals. This is especially important at large events, where if you leave it to chance you many never see each other.
More and more conference organizers are hosting pre-event webinars and utilizing event industry technologies to establish the community in advance. Do not ignore these opportunities to discover information about the event and the people who will be present. Some of the tools used do require you to fill out a new profile, while others, like Presdo Match will connect to your LinkedIn profile. In either case it is worth your time to establish yourself on these services and participate. This will allow you to learn about the make up of the audience and identify people whom you might want to meet. It also allows other people to learn about you. Again, contacting them in advance will give you the best chance of meeting up in person.
After the event you must take ownership of the follow up, or the people whom you met will quickly drift away. You do not need to reach out to every person whom you met, but the ones with whom you had meaningful conversations are worth sending an email or handwritten note. Be sure to let them know you enjoyed meeting them and that you hope to keep in touch. If you do not take this simple step it is most likely that you will not have any future contact, until the following year, if you both return to the conference.
Additionally, if the conference planners host post-event webinars, it is recommended that you participate. Follow-on information is often shared by speakers and others in an attempt to keep the mini-society of the event going into the future. Again the online technology can provide you with ways to re-connect with other attendees and monitor industry information that is being shared within the community.
Do not just "wing it" if you are participating in an event, commit to getting involved early and staying active once you return home. This will give you a better chance of discovering the value of attending events. Remember..these days an event is more than just the physical meeting.
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