I’m off to a conference on Saturday and with my SORTED hat on I’ve been thinking about whether I should have a standardised ‘system’ for getting the most out of a conference or whether I should just go with the flow. I already do some things so I thought I’d create a checklist of things for a SORTED Conference, some conference tips if you will!
While ‘going with the flow’ is great for parties, a business conference is little different. There are so many opportunities to connect with new people that it would be a shame not to maximise our time by a little up front preparation. I thought you might like to know my top x things for going to a conferenece.
1. Set my intentions
I don’t just do this for conferences, I also do it when I go networking. (Between you and me used to hate networking but then I learnt this trick of setting my intention and it all changed.) Depending on my mood and what I need for my business at the time of the event I make a clear statement of intent. Examples include:
- I intend to be of service to at least one person today (my favourite intention and may increase to 3 people for a full day conference)
- I intend to meet at least one person who I could interview for my podcast today
- I intend to find someone or connect with someone who knows a great graphic designer (or other skillset I need) today
- I intend to enjoy myself with no pressure to achieve anything today (this is only allowed on really bad days!)
Setting the intention makes me feel like I have a purpose and really changes how I feel about walking into a room of people I don’t know. Try it yourself and let me know what you think
2. The 5 minute rule
One great thing about conferences is bumping into people I haven’t seen for a while and catching up. This is so much easier than meeting new people and it can be easy to get chatting with people you already know and not make the most of your chance to meet new people. This is where the 5 minute rule comes in. If I decide to use this rule (which I will be this weekend) I can speak to anyone but only for 5 minutes. After that I explain my rule “It’s been so lovely to catch up / meet you but I have a rule at conferences to help me meet as many people as possible and after 5 minutes I move on”. You can swap cards at this point if you want to continue the conversation but don’t miss out on new connections!
3. Keeping in touch
It goes without saying that you want to be able to connect with people after the event. Traditionally we swap business cards but recently I’ve stopped accepting cards and instead just use Evernote to capture the cards information before returning it for reuse. Evernote automatically adds the information to my contacts and asks me if I want to connect on LinkedIn too which is handy if you use LinkedIn.
As well as a photo of the business card, you can also take a photo of yourself with your new connection which is great to remind you who they were (or is that just me!) and also can be used for easy social media posts. A quick flick through my photo album when I’m next at my desk reminds me who I need to follow up with.
4. Essential equipment
A bottle of water, tissues and a power pack for my phone are my 3 essentials for any event. If you want to make friends then take a few different charging cables so you can boost the battery of your new friends if they need it.
Other things to consider are:
- a big scarf, lots of venues are chilly so this can be a lifesaver
- some polos or other mints. Talking all day can really get your throat and a sweet to suck on between conversations can be useful.
- quiet snacks. Some nuts or an energy bar in non rustly packaging are handy if you have a hungry moment!
5. Conversation starters
Having a few conversation openers up your sleeve will help you move on from your 5 minute chat and meet someone new. Suggestions include:
- “Hi I’m Alice, I don’t think we have met. I’d love to know what you do?” (Obviously you should use your name or that would be weird.)
- I loved that last talk, did you find it interesting?
- Isn’t this an amazing venue! Have you been here before?
- Would you like a polo? My throat gets so dry talking all day!
6. Be memorable
In a crowd it’s always good to have a way of standing out. This might be a bright scarf or bag, some jazzy shoes or other accessories. This helps people to point you out across a room ‘You need to speak to Alice, the lady with the purple bag over there’ and it also helps people to remember you afterwards, especially if your memorable thing is visible in the photo you take with them and share on social media.
7. Plan to follow up
When you close a conversation, if it’s appropriate then set an intention to follow up and share it with your new connection. By stating it out loud you are much more likely to do it and the recipient will almost always be flattered that you want to know more.
Don’t just say ‘I’ll be in touch’. Be specific and say I’ll email you on Monday or I’ll drop you a voice mail.
For extra effect you can send a personalised video using a tool like Bonjouro which lets you record and send messages (50 each month for free!) which is a really memorable way to follow up.
8. Make notes
Any excuse for a new notebook is good with me. I have a special notebook for conferences that means I can easily go back and find notes if I want to refer back to them.
For extra points, write a blog about what you learnt from the conference and share it on social media after the event. If you tag the event organisers you might even get some extra reach as a result.
9. Be social
Most events use hashtags now so make sure you find out what they are before the event. A post the day before will help you connect with other people who are going. If you are nervous about walking in on your own you can arrange to meet up with someone when you arrive so you have more purpose.
10. Enjoy yourself
Don’t forget to enjoy yourself! Don’t get so hung up on making connections, saying the right thing and taking notes that you forget to enjoy the day.
I’d love to know your top tips for a great conference… drop me a line and let me know!