Is there enough time in the day, week, or month? Do you have the budget? Will you really come back with ideas and inspiration? Should I really go to this conference? All these questions and more crop up when it is time to register for that industry conference. Is it really worth all the trouble? Let’s dig in. The real question is this: are YOU the right person for the conference? Are YOU ready?
When it was clear to us that our area of specialty is helping children’s museums with their marketing, it was obvious that we needed to have a presence at the Association of Children’s Museums Interactivity conference. I knew that this would be great for us because I have been there before. I attended Interactivity in both Houston and Boston where I came home in a ball of fire full of excitement, energy and enthusiasm for my work. So, based on my past experience in children’s museums and at that conference, I knew I needed to be there.
But, there have been times where I felt a conference was a huge waste of time, money and energy. That has been the rarest of occasions though because my experience, by far, has always been a positive one when attending these conferences. They’re all the different but the one thing that is the same – me. I was the only common denominator. Conferences are exhausting, but when you enter them with the right mindset, goals and a good attitude they can be quite beneficial! When you are the common denominator, then YOU need a plan to make your conference attendance beneficial. The conference committee has done a lot of planning to get ready; you should do the same.
How can you make a conference beneficial? Check out these tips from the Queen of Connections!
- Understand the audience. Know who you’ll be networking with at the event.
- Bring business cards! A LOT of them. I’m serious. I can’t tell you how many people would tell me “I didn’t bring any!” or “I ran out.” Stop the madness. Be prepared. Bring more than you possibly think you’ll need.
- Look at your business cards. Are they good? Do they represent you and your brand? Maybe you need to tweak them. Give yourself time to do that before the conference.
- Don’t be a wallflower. I’m sorry if you’re shy. No, really, I am. But you’ve got to figure that part out. You’re wasting so much valuable time and resources if you stick to the wall and don’t talk to people. You have to step it up! Get out there, chat, engage and start conversations.
- Drink water. Exercise. Take your Vitamin C! Honestly, conferences are exhausting and can wear you down. They can attack your immune system. Stay healthy so you can be at your best.
- Follow up! Find a reason to stay in touch. Send a follow up email. Pick up the phone (whoa, we’re taking it old school now!) and have a real conversation voice to voice.
- Drop a thank you note in the mail. Talk about old school. I’m going there. If you want to make an impression, then this will do it. Everyone loves a personal handwritten message.
These are just a few of the tips I have for making the most of your conference. In addition, this is just a reminder that a conference is what you make of it. They cost A LOT whether it is you or your company paying for it the cost of travel, hotels, transportation, registration and food add up – quickly! Why not invest the time in preparing and following up if you’ve invested that much financially? So, get to it. Yes, go to that conference but only if you’re “all in”!