I've always loved conferences and tradeshows so I was dumbfounded to see how many people hated them at a woman in biz meet up the other week. I've always asked to be sent to conferences as part of the corporate companies I've been a part of in the past, but as an entrepreneur, I still go even though the only one footing that bill is me. I love attending workshops to stay on top of trends of my industry as much as I love speaking at them. Getting away to conferences is harder now between having to coordinate care and pickups for the kids and having work still need to be done even though I'm away since I’m not in sales anymore when it was easy to be ‘out of territory’ for a few days. On top of all of that, entry can be expensive and since I don’t have a corporation to sponsor my pass. I paid almost $2,500 just to get IN to one of these conferences last year alone, I need to be sure I am making the most of these meetings!
1. Have a plan of action. I look at two things when looking at what conference to spend my time at; what could I possibly learn and who could I possibly meet? The sessions may be something where I'm trying to master a new skill or it could be that there is a speaker presenting that I want to get connected with. In both cases, I'm researching the panels ahead of time before committing to taking time out of my day for any conference. With more digital tickets being available, sometimes I can also save on the price of the ticket plus travel by purchasing a digital ticket instead and watching sessions on my own time in the evening. Especially for industry meetings where it is great for me to get caught up on the information, but everyone in attendance is mainly another marketer like myself, I may not feel the need to network with people to collaborate with in person.
2. Give a compliment and start conversations. I hate talking to people out of the blue in 97% of life situations, but if I am attending something in person, I try and make an effort to meet some of the other people who view their business as important enough to be there too. I am not always the best at this because sometimes I get anxious about the emails I'm missing and spend the break typing up my notes from the last session or checking emails and social channels, but never once has anyone attempted to start a conversation with me with my head down over my laptop or phone. Unless I'm running late because I'm trying to chat with a presenter from the last session, I usually try and sit down early and strike up a presentation with someone sitting near me. I'm the worst at accepting compliments because I usually shrug them off and downplay my 'positive' with a negative. I'm trying to get better at that, but I'm great at finding something to give someone a compliment on and then ask what they do. After that being my ice breaker, I usually ask them if they've been to this conference before or what other conferences they recommend in relationship to what they do. At the end of the day, I'll try and do the same thing 'virtually' on social media by seeing who posted stories or photos with the event hashtags and geotags to see if there is anyone I may want to try and meet up with over one of the breaks.
Pro Tip: I don't post personally on Twitter much, but it can be a great platform to jump into these conversations in real time even more than Instagram.
3. Write it down and share the knowledge! I am an avid note taker, but notes don't do you any good if they are stuck in your 200th gold notebook that gets placed who knows where. I try and add each session on my phone in Google Docs. You are now more organized to be able to actually revisit those notes and take action from the meeting, use part of those notes as content later if you want to summarize what you are learning on social media or your blog, and if you work with multiple people it is great to be able to have a short summary prepared of your key takeaways to everyone can benefit from you being away while also showing the advantage of your company paying for you to go back again the next year.
What about you? Do you have any conference tips to share? I’d love to hear them or what industry you are in and your favorite conferences or tradeshows to attend. DM me on Instagram @JasminePennamma. The next one I’ll be at is VidCon, will you be there?