Saturday, October 22, 2011

Maximizing Your Attendance at the Emerson Exchange Conference (Or Any Event) #EMRex

This year's Emerson Global Users Exchange event is going to be GREAT. The agenda is packed with captivating keynote speakers, detailed breakout sessions, and outstanding networking opportunities. This is the largest crowd of ever, and the audience and exhibitors are all people who could become important business contacts.

Wow, we have a busy few day ahead!

I will be speaking on Monday morning and conducting a breakout session on both Tuesday and Wednesday. I hope to meet as many attendees as possible. Please come and say hello.

My message on Monday is about maximizing your conference experience. A main reason that people come to industry events is for the networking opportunities, and Emerson Exchange is a phenomenal place to make powerful connections. Hopefully you will enjoy the presentation and go on to "Choose People" throughout the rest of the week.

Even though there is a lot of fun on the agenda, the event is packed with learning and high-level conversations. Get ready for the industry forums, technology exhibits, and powerful networking opportunities.

Here are nine tips to help you maximize the conference:

1. Check in ASAP. You might be tempted to wait until the morning to pick up your nametag and conference materials. However, I recommend getting registered as soon as you arrive. Immediately after you arrive a the hotel check to see if the registration booth is open. The sooner you get your nametag and conference agenda, the sooner you will start reaping the benefits of being part of the conference "mini-society".

You should also download the Exchange App to your smart phone. This will allow you to begin to review the schedule, read speaker bios, select the most appropriate breakout sessions, preview exhibitors, discover the latest conference news, and begin connecting with other attendees.

2. Review the agenda in detail. Read over the descriptions of all the keynote, workshops, breakout sessions and other activities. NOT JUST THE TITLES. I have seen many people skip out on certain sessions only to later realize they missed some powerful information that was ideal for their career. Make your decisions as to what are your "must see" presentations to ensure you will be able to be present. This way if something comes up (like you are tired or have a work emergency) you are familiar with the areas in the schedule where you have flexibility and when you cannot break free.

3. Say "Hello". Once you put on your nametag you become part of the conference community. Do not be shy in talking to others who are also attending the event. If you were in Europe and you saw someone wearing a t-shirt with your hometown or college name on it ... you would defiantly say "Hi". In the halls of the hotel and convention center there will be lots of people hoping to meet each other. Be the person who initiates conversations. If you wait for others to talk to you, it could be a lonely conference.

4. Do not check your email in the conference area. While I encourage your to utilize social media (the Emerson Exchange Twitter hashtag is #EMRex) and the conference app, do not spend the valuable break time checking email or surfing the web on smart phones. Some folks spend the breaks with their eyes focused on their phones, and not seeing the people around them. When you are looking at your phone you broadcast to other attendees that you are not approachable. People do not feel they can come and talk with you, as that would be rude, so they move on. This perception might subconsciously remain at social events later in the conference.

If you have to take a call or are monitoring an important work situation, step away from the conference area. We all have other stuff we must attend to while at a five day conference, but it can usually wait a few minutes. Simply walk a few yards away from the networking area. Twenty years ago when people attended a major industry event they were present both physically and mentally. Now many show up in body only, with their mind off in cyberspace.

This does not mean you shouldn't pull out your phone during a presentation. If the speaker says something interesting, you may want to post his comments to Twitter, Facebook, or your blog.

The key is finding the balance between technology and choosing to pay attention to the people around you..

5. Exchange business cards. There is a trend for people to not carry or ask for business cards. But without the exchange of a card - the odds of a follow up connection go down. The card is a reminder in the physical world that you met this person. Too many "Bump", "Link In", or tell the other person to "Google them" to get contact information. While some actually follow through, most contact information gets lost in the digital stew and nothing ever happens. Getting the cards, and keeping them nearby until you actually follow-up, is important. If you use the conference app to make an initial connection, be sure act on the information as soon as you return to the office.

6. Take notes. I recently listened to a keynote presentation from a person who was a lifetime business adviser and friend to Steve Jobs. This guy was actively sharing important nuggets of business advice to a room of 500 entrepreneurs. A dozen people were taking notes. While his information was interesting, he was not so captivating that his words were to be burned into the soul. Few people probably remembered this guy's insightful information (I am sure most do not recall his name). Take notes so you can review them on the flight home and you will retain more of the knowledge for use when you get back to the office.

7. Meet the exhibitors. The exhibit portion of this event is a great opportunity for you to experience the technology that will be discussed in the workshops, round tables and courses. Many people fail to invest enough time in visiting the booths and cultivating the contacts created when you share time with the sponsors. Those who work for Emerson and the sponsoring companies are the best friends you can have in your industry. They are happy to share ideas and best practices with those they have developed meaningful relationships, and they are always aware of trends and opportunities. Plan your time wisely each day and try to visit every booth.

8. Have fun. Emerson has ensured that this conference will be educational and entertaining. Take full advantage of all aspects of the event. Even if you are a bit of an introvert you can still have fun at the social activities and make connections that will have a positive and long-term impact on your career. Everyone at the conference is here for the same reason, and most want to meet interesting professionals (like you!). Networking should be fun and add to the ROI of your participation.

9. Plan for follow-up. Meeting someone at a conference does not make them part of your network. Meeting someone once simply makes them a person who you have met once. To cultivate the type of relationships that lead to future business opportunities and professional friendships there needs to be ongoing contact. Never expect the other people to follow-up with you. You must own the follow-up. There is a big difference between someone you have met at a conference and a person with whom you have cultivated an ongoing friendship. Relationships do not happen by accident.

As you make new connections be sure to take notes on the back of their business card or in your notebook that will remind you about the pertinent parts of your discussion. If you agree to a certain action item, make sure that you schedule a calendar reminder so that you will follow through.

Now, fasten your seat belt, return your tray table to its upright position, and have a wonderful time at the 2011 Emerson Exchange Conference.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

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