Making the most out of your conference

How many trade shows, exhibitions, or networking events have you attended over the past 12 months? Conferences in all shapes and sizes are multiplying at a growing rate – where there was once a clearly defined ‘season’, you can now attend conferences all year round.

Business events can be exhausting. On top of the travelling, there’s updating the business cards, picking your interactive sessions, and planning your route around the stalls when you get there. So how can you avoid delegate burn-out and make the most out of conferences? In this blog, we’re going to talk you through what you can do to get maximum use – and maximum fun – out of your next event.

Before – planning and strategising

Defining a conference strategy before attending sounds dry, doesn’t it? In reality, planning ahead can make or break your experience of an event, and this doesn’t just mean glancing through the brochure or glancing at the website.

Setting goals and expectations is the first port of call for a successful business event. Why are you attending, and what do you expect to get out of going? Do you have anyone in particular you’d like to catch up with, or do you see value in booking onto a specific workshop? Yes, conferences and exhibitions are a great place to network with old and new connections, but without a clear cut agenda of what to see and who to talk to, you risk wasting your time altogether.

Next, planning is your new best friend. Before you don that lanyard, make sure you have a clear route. This will help you eliminate aimless wandering, collecting unwanted business cards, or being sidetracked by the promise of a free cup of coffee. Highlight key speakers, workshops, and stalls to visit. Make sure you take note of overlapping appointments or schedule clashes – this will save time and will also help you identify what you’re truly interested in.

During – putting that plan into action

So, you have your highlighted calendar, map, and your comfiest shoes on. It’s time to put all that strategising into action – but how do you get the most out of your planned keynotes, interactive sessions, and networking?

Time management is crucial to a successful business event. Keynotes and sessions will overrun, so try not to be precious about what you see in the moment. Dropping in and out of your planned appointments can be a good way of judging what is and what’s not relevant to you – and if you miss something completely, it will most likely be filmed or cribbed for your own reference later.

Networking can be one of the most powerful take-aways from any conference or exhibition. It can be daunting, however, and difficult to find topics in common. This is where attending the keynote can be extremely useful – it gives you an immediate way into a conversation and helps you avoid overused ice breakers or dull anecdotes.

After

It’s time to evaluate what you got out of your business event. You may have a handful of new business cards and contacts to connect with on LinkedIn (and we suggest doing that as quickly as possible), or a bundle of notes from your sessions to type up. Whatever you’ve taken from that event is material from like-minded people that you can use in the future to inspire your work and give you motivation. Timely following up with valuable networking connections can also lead to fruitful business possibilities in the future – and could even lead to new sales.

Do you have any tips to a successful conference or event? We’d love to know – tweet us @uopoffice with your own experiences and advice.

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