As a busy entrepreneur, I strive to be strategic in selecting the networking and development opportunities that will advance my business objectives and inspire excellence in my own practice. Attending industry conferences is a great opportunity to market your business, create new connections with decision makers, build upon existing relationships and keeping up to date in the trends and best practices.
Participating at conference can be a huge benefit for your business in several aspects. As a speaker it’s a great marketing opportunity to showcase your thought leadership and share success stories (or lessons learned in the not-so-successful scenarios – hey, we’ve all been there!). As an organizer, sponsor or session co-ordinator, it not only reflects positively on your company and its commitment to support worthwhile associations, it also lends credence to your business as a visible stakeholder in the future of your industry.
Actively participating in conferences as an attendee means more than just showing up at registration. In order to get the most out of the experience, it’s important to plan ahead and be prepared. “Tradeshow Season” is just around the corner, and I have curated some useful ways to maximize your experience and investment in your conference attendance.
Before the Event
Take the time to select your sessions in advance based on your interests and goals. Download the event app if there is one and use it to build your schedule and create a profile or digital business card. Learn about the speakers in advance to heighten your curiosity and get the most out of the experience, it may provide you some useful information should you decide to introduce yourself after hearing them speak. There’s usually a hashtag associated with the event; leverage your social media presence by letting everyone know that you are attending. Bring plenty of business cards, practice your elevator pitch and put your out of office on your phone and email.
Know what’s Included
This may seem like a given, but during one conference I attended as an exhibitor, we learned on the day of that all the attendees had a three-hour gap in their schedules while association executives were having a meeting. The exhibit floor was completely empty! Had I known in advance I could have used the time to set up meetings with key customers at the conference. Instead it was a missed opportunity.
So, know what you are getting into before you go: Will you be leaving the conference with a way to access all the presentations or will you have to follow up with each speaker? Will you receive a list of all the attendees? Or just a tote bag and a pen? Is lunch included? Breakfast? Is there a social afterwards? This will help inform how you plan on capturing information during the sessions, connect with the speakers and maximize the time available for networking (or even arranging one-to-one meetings in advance).
During the Conference
Don’t be late
I know this seems obvious but arriving early guarantees that you will find a great seat and enjoy an unhurried time to network. Mid-day, you and your potential contacts will be rushing off to sessions or a lunch queue. The morning of a conference is your golden opportunity, so don’t skip the introductory remarks and make the most of it.
Connect in person and online
Use social media or the event app to find out who is attendance and their role. If its someone you already know, message them to let them you are there and suggest a time or place within the venue to reconnect.
Spend some time in the Exhibit Hall
Invest the time to learn about innovations impacting your industry and understand how they impact your business. These relationships could be a source of referrals in the future so take the time to cultivate vendor relations.
Put your phone on vibrate, take notes, ask questions, introduce yourself to the person next to you. This is your time to learn and connect. Check your email at set intervals during the day; they will always be there for you to read. But you may never get a chance to meet that speaker or learn what that expert panel has to say ever again!
After the Conference
Follow up with every contact and speaker within a week of the conference. Take steps to set up a call or face to face meeting with anyone you wish to build a relationship or do business with.
Map the quality of information and connections you’ve acquired with the focus of your business. Was this the right conference for you to attend? Does it make sense to increase your presence next year? Don’t just check a box that you’ve fulfilled your networking or continuous learning hours; consider the return-on-investment on your time, money and energy. As a corporate drone, you were probably forced to attend conferences all the time, now it’s your business decision. If the conference wasn’t what you expected, provide feedback to the organizers and ask your new connections what conferences they attend. Attending conferences are in service to your business plans. Take the time to make sure you are being true to your vision and objectives.
Share your insights
Many of your peers, customers and prospects do not have the time or resources to attend important industry conferences. By distilling key insights and sharing them across your network you are providing incredible value to your target audience while gaining visibility as a thought leader and industry contributor.
Have I left anything out? Please let me know if you have anything to add! I hope your conference experiences in 2020 are worthwhile and fruitful!
Ethel is a transformation expert in the Digital Health space. As the Owner and Principal of Synergic Consulting she leverages her clinical, technical and business background to accelerate the adoption and implementation of digital health innovations across the healthcare enterprise.
Ethel Zammit MBA CPHIMS-CA
Synergic Consulting –
Accelerating Adoption in Digital Health