Professional conferences (like our upcoming One Squared) are exciting events, full of lots of educational talks and opportunities to network. Many of the attendees I see are really excited at the prospect of attending ... but when they show up, it's like all excitement fades away. All their plans to maximize the day goes out the window. Why is this?
Even just a one-day conference can be overwhelming, especially if someone hasn't been to many of them. But they're important for both personal and professional growth, and people need to stay focused. As a self-proclaimed conference junkie, here are a few hard and fast "rules" for conference-goers to make sure you get everything you possibly can out of the big day.
PLAN AND PREPARE
It's always best to have a plan of attack. Before going to a marketing seminar, figure out all the logistics. How long does it run? Where is it? Who's speaking? What does registration entail?
It might sound basic, but it's important to make sure all travel and accommodation arrangements are taken care of with plenty of time to spare. If an employee isn't sure if there's going to be room at the hotel she's at, or if she doesn't have a way to get from the airport to the conference, she's bound to miss something. Figure out parking before the morning of. Arriving late, or maybe even not at all, would be absolute worst case scenario. Iron these details out in advance, so there's less focus on logistics and more focus on the actual meat of the conference.
Attendees should also think about what they're packing. Always be prepared - like a good marketing scout! Aside from attire, there are other things to consider for the event too, like notebooks and pens or a laptop to take notes on. Consider installing an app to make audio recordings of presentations. (Check with conference organizers in advance to make sure this is OK.) I like having a water bottle to refill, snacks at the ready, highlighters for organizing notes, an extra layer of "sleeves" to ward off chilly rooms and venues, and business cards for networking like a pro.
PUT TOGETHER TO-DOS
Think about the actual conference itself. Are there multiple tracks, with multiple talks given at once? Given your time, interests, role, and existing expertise, where will you spend your best time?
Most conferences plan their tracks so employees with specific interests don't have to do the hard work of choosing between two different talks that look interesting. But some will force hard decisions. It's a good idea to make these decisions well in advance — or at least the night before! — so you aren't caught between a rock and a hard place on the day of the actual conference. In the case of One Squared, our team thought long and hard about the best format for a single day conference, and decided to feature speakers and panelists who will speak to both sides of people so there isn't a single track to choose from. There's no chance of seminar "FOMO" with our event.
At the same time you consider what exposure you want from a particular conference, set networking goals as well. These can seem harder to meet, because they involve meeting with the right people at the right times. But attendees can make these meetings happen by reaching out to particularly interesting speakers or companies (whom they know will be in attendance) in advance of the event. They may not be able to make time to see a given attendee during the conference itself, but they'll at least know who the attendee is if they make the approach. And if the two parties miss the connection, they can follow up with each other afterward.
CLEAR EYES, FULL HEART, PAY ATTENTION
When the day of the marketing event actually arrives, it's easy to get distracted. There's a lot of noise, a lot of action, and a lot of people. Stay on task and remember the goals set earlier. For many employees, your team or manager might have expectations upon your return. You might be called on for new skills, access to tools, or meeting new people who can help your team or business grow. Remember why you're there in the first place!
During breaks, if people are congregating, chatting, or networking, feel free to stand up and go meet with them. There's always time for networking around a career development event. But, remember breakouts and keynotes are only given once, and the conference may not offer transcripts. Listen up, record, and take notes during the time you should be immersed in the day's programming.
Attending a career development conference can be disorienting for many. But with a little prep work, even green attendees will feel like seasoned pros and get everything they want out of the day. Stay connected to Leighton Interactive's One Squared event by clicking the button below.