For most of us, spring is in the air. That, in turn, means the spring conference season is underway. We at VizionX are particularly looking forward to events like NS3, (where you can find us at booth 57 by the way!) but there are also a number of great state LTA events coming up as well.

So, the question becomes this: Are you ready for conference season…like really ready?  Our own Terri Hanson, who’s been to a number of industry conferences over the years, has some great suggestions as to how to prepare for and get the most out of your conference experience.

Let’s start with the do’s.

While there are a number of great elements to any good conference (content, new destinations, an opportunity to promote one’s product), it’s probably your networking that will bring the most return eventually. With that in mind, be sure you’re doing the following things.

  1. Create a digital business card to exchange information with other attendees. This will eliminate losing the cards of others or digging in the bottom of your conference-issued bag to locate your own.  Some suggestions include Blinq or HiHello.  
  2. Make eye contact with other attendees when seated in sessions. This is a conference, not the  Southwest pre-flight boarding contest in which we try to keep that middle seat empty!  Say “hello” and introduce yourself.  You never know where a conversation might lead, and you’re at the conference, in large part, to make new connections and potentially business partners or long-term friends.
  3. Drink lots of water! Remember, conference season is a marathon and not a sprint.  Drink twice as much water as alcohol to avoid dehydration and missed sessions or meetings. (Or, avoid alcohol altogether if you like…even though that can be difficult at some events!)
  4. Put your phone down or shut your laptop. Do your best to arrange for a back-up person in the office to field your calls and be sure set your out of office responses.  It can wait.
  5. Listen! Consider this a gentle reminder that God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.  Truly focus on what you are hearing so you can share that information with colleagues or staff upon your return. After all, it’s part of that ROI on the likely thousand dollar (at minimum) investment you made to be here in the first place.
  6. Share! As in, snap a few pictures of your booth, some new friends or (if you’re allowed to) the conference hall, and then share to your LinkedIn profile updates (be sure, of course, to mind your corporate social media guidelines or, better, yet, share with your marketing folks first). There may be hundreds or thousands at the event, but there are thousands more who wish they were there. While the conference producer may not want you sharing actual content or images of speakers in session, they likely won’t mind you showing the world that their FOMO fears were, indeed, appropriate! It’s also a great, easy way to brand and stay top of mind with your own brand.

And now, the don’ts.

Some of these sound simple enough, but can actually be a challenge…especially after a few days of networking and focus, when fatigue might begin to set in.

  1. Don’t overbook or overcommit yourself. Conference organizers have spent countless hours planning the sessions, key note speakers and vendors.  If you try to multi-task or cram your schedule for the sake of staying busy, you are likely to miss key opportunities to network and meet others, or learn of new tools or industry pain points. Some of the best results you might see from attending a conference could be quite coincidental or unplanned.
  2. Don’t forget to pack accordingly. Even if your event is held in a warmer climate, typically meeting rooms are drafty or have the AC on full blast to accommodate “body heat” from large bodies of people (in some cases, to the extent that it seems likely frost will form on the windows).  Also, you may be invited to join an after session or networking event that requires comfy clothes or fancy garb.
  3. Remember, you are not only representing yourself but also your company at a conference. It is hard to recover from being known as the Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan of a conference. That’s especially true in a small, relationship-based industry like ours.  Enjoy yourself; dance the night away; let loose to a degree; sing your heart out and soak up the energy, but remember that our last impressions often stay with others for a long time.
  4. Try not to over share your war stories. At industry conferences, most are affected by similar market conditions, so hashing and re-hashing topics in a negative way helps no one.  Ours is an industry that focuses more on solutions than challenges. So definitely share if you have found just such a solution. Also, if you’re proud of a recent accomplishment, it’s quite alright to share. Just don’t do it ad nauseum.
  5. When possible, don’t sit with co-workers or friends in every session. A better strategy is to divide and conquer.  Not only does this ensure that you are getting more content but it also provides an opportunity meet new people.

Best of luck to you all during the upcoming conferences. And be sure to say hello to Terri, Carrie Anders and Kevin Mazur at NS3.

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