Make Conferences Work for You

Dion Hinchcliffe

As a business woman, attending conferences is part of the job, or at least it should be if you want to maximize your exposure, gain new clients and network with the kinds of people who can help you do and be more.

Unfortunately, a lot of people just hate conferences. They find them boring and uncomfortable, and they just don’t know what to do to maximize the potential of their attendance. If you’re one of those people, here are some conference tips to help you ace your next event, and hopefully even enjoy it!

Set a Goal

For every conference you attend, you should have a goal in mind. If you know why you’re going to the conference and what you hope to achieve by being there, it will be a lot easier for you to focus and get things done. Goals could be as simple as increasing your brand’s visibility or networking with successful people in your industry – they don’t have to be complicated – but you should always have them.

Stay at the Venue

If the conference is being held at a hotel, you might be tempted to stay elsewhere, so that you can escape from the event at the end of the day and just relax, but it’s a much better idea to stay at the venue. By doing so, you will run into a lot of the speakers and attendees in the corridors, and these chance meetings could lead to very lucrative conversations. You’d be surprised how often deals are struck in the corridors after events have wound down for the day!

Create Marketing Materials

Before you head to a conference, you should have a range of marketing materials printed. Lanyards from this company, business cards from this company, brochures, and catalogs, and even small items you can giveaway like reusable coffee cups and stationery will all help you to increase your visibility during the event and get more people interested in buying from you. Just make sure that you work out a sensible budget for marketing before you start printing, otherwise, you might blow your whole conference budget on cards and pencils.

Announce Your Attendance

Before the event, it’s also a very good idea to announce your attendance. Let your customers, clients, suppliers and anyone else who may be interested, know that you will be attending the conference via email. Encourage them to come and visit you at your company’s booth (if you have one), invite important contacts to lunch and generally try to get people excited about the event, so that they will actually show up!

Do Your Homework

If there are particular speakers or guests you’d like to connect with at a conference, for goodness sake, do your homework! Read their books, bios, business sites and anything else you can get your hands that will tell you a bit more about them. That way, you can impress them with your knowledge and, with a bit of charm, ensure that they enjoy talking to you.

Choose Events Wisely

If you’ve ever attended a conference before, you will know that there are dozens of panel discussions, talks and demonstrations on offer. You can’t attend them all, so you need to, ahead of time, sit down with the schedule and work out which events are most worthy of your time. These might be events that you know a supplier you’re interested in working with is going to attend or a talk by someone who’s advice you would like. Work your schedule around attending these events, and you will be able to maximize your gains at the event.

Be Professional

This should go without saying, but a business conference isn’t a mini vacation. It might be being held in a beautiful location at the weekend, but it is still work. So, although you can still have some fun while you’re there, you must maintain a professional demeanour. Dress appropriately for your brand, be polite and avoid doing anything that could show you in a negative light and put other attendees off doing business with you in the future, such as getting drunk and doing something stupid.

Act Like You Want to Be There

Even if the conference you’re attending is the most boring event you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to participate in, it pays to put a smile on your face, fill your voice with enthusiasm and avoid acting like a grouch. No one will want to talk to you if you look bored, annoyed and like you’d rather be anywhere else. Happiness is infectious, and if you can stay happy, you will attract a lot more interest than the other business people who are obviously counting down the hours until they can get home.

Know Your Stuff

When you’re at a conference, you really do need to know your stuff. You’re likely to be asked a lot of questions about your work, your business and your brand and if you can’t answer them easily, you probably won’t convince any new clients to jump on board. So, brush up on those areas of your business that you perhaps don’t deal with day to day before you go and you’ll be even more impressive.

Be Confident

So many people attend conferences within the aim of connecting to a specific person/people, but once they get within few feet of them, they chicken out and give up on the approach. If you want to make connections, do deals and grow your business via conferences, you can’t do this. You need to put all of your fears aside and be confident. I mean, what’s the worse that can happen? They might politely brush you off after a few moments of conversation. So, what?

Turn It Off

Finally, when you’re at a conference, the only screens you should be looking at are the ones being used to broadcast talks and presentations. If you’re forever looking at your phone or checking your emails, you will not appear to be engaged or approachable and will make far fewer connections as a result.

Are you a regular conference attendee? What tips do you have to make events work for you?

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