I recently attended the WritersUA conference where I got to talk shop with people in my industry from across the US and from Australia. I knew it would be a great opportunity to meet a wide range of people from my industry.
In this series of blog posts, I’m going to share with you ideas for getting the most from a conference, industry event, or local meetup. You can use and modify this information to cover everything from single evening events to multiple day industry conferences.
Getting Ready For An Event
In the weeks before my conference, I invested a little time to start building connections with other attendees. Here are a few things I did to maximize my industry connections before the conference.
- If your event has a website, check the website for information about how they are using social media. Are they on Twitter? Do they have a Facebook page? Did they create a LinkedIn group? Are they listed on Yelp or Upcoming?
- If you use the same social media sites as the conference, hook up with the event through each site. If you don’t use these sites, pick the one that you have most wanted to try out, and jump in. You’ll never have a better excuse to try it out.
- Use these social media tools to find other people who will be attending the event. Follow them on Twitter. Post a note on the Facebook wall that introduces you and says you are excited to attend the event. Join in the conversation in the LinkedIn group.
- If possible, start to make connections with new people before you arrive. Do whatever you can to begin talking with people online. This is not the time to be a shrinking violet. The more people you meet online before the event, the easier it is to meet them in real life later.
- Update your profile on each social media site that you use to mention the upcoming conference. Mention it on your blog. Add it to your email signature temporarily. The idea is to make connections, so be sure you tell everyone that you are attending the conference.
- Make sure your company business card is up to date. If you just joined new social media sites, make sure that you include that information on your card.
- Have enough cards. Ideally, you should have one for every person you meet. Depending on how fast you work a room, that might be 10 cards a day to 50 cards a day (or more). It’s better to have too many cards than not enough cards.
- If you company doesn’t provide you with a business card, or if they are not going to update your cards before the event, order your own business cards. You can order inexpensive cards online and through your local office supply store. Give yourself plenty of time for delivery before the event.
- If you are thinking about going into business for yourself, or if you want to start freelancing, this is the perfect time to create your own business card. Start building your professional identity separate from your current employer with your new contacts.
- Start making a list of the information that would make your working life easier. What perpetual challenges do you face in your work that could use a creative solution? What challenges face you today in your work? Be prepared to start conversations on these topics and collect information from the experience of others. Make notes about the technical details of your situation so you can ask specific questions. Create a question fact sheet so you are prepared to share this information.
- What business solutions have you, your team, or your company created that might inspire new solutions for other companies? Companies in your industry may be facing the same or similar challenges. Create a case study or write up a solution fact sheet that you can share with people at the conference, complete with the technical details. Write a blog post about each of them, and link the fact sheet to your blog post. Make it easy for people who want the detailed information to get it. Print copies of your fact sheet and carry them with you at the event.
- If your event has multiple sessions at the same time, spend some time studying the agenda and schedule.
- Some topics will be relevant to your job, and others will appeal to your personal curiosity. Use a different color to mark each type of topic based on why you like it. It will help you to make decisions later.
- As you pick your selections for each time slot, keep in mind that the schedule can change at the last minute. Pick a first and second choice for each time slot in case your first choice is moved, the room is over capacity, or another reason keeps you from attending it.
- Identify which electronic devices you need for the conference. A laptop can be handy, but also requires you to carry it around the event. Decide what you must take with you, and what you can leave in the hotel room for evenings and between sessions. A smart phone can give you access to your email, Twitter, and other communication tools during sessions.
- Check with your hotel to see if they provide in-room safes, and the dimensions so you know if your electronic devices will fit before you arrive. This is especially important if you want to leave your laptop in the room during the event.
- Many venues do not have electric outlets available, so you may have to rely on battery power to use your laptop or other device during the event. Create a recharging strategy and have extra batteries available if possible.
- Identify if the event provides free wifi internet access. With access, you can live blog the sessions, or tweet the key points live. Many cell phone carriers offer broadband access for portable devices, but these services may require an equipment purchase and a long term contract.
What do you think? Is there something I’ve forgotten to include? Share you suggestions and activities with the community through a comment.
Up next time: How to maximize your time at the event.