As a busy professional, your time is precious. Taking time away from the daily grind to attend a conference is a big deal. Attending networking or professional development conferences can be really valuable for relationship building, recruiting, inspiration, vendor and partner sourcing, education, innovation, and new business opportunities. In order to maximize the return on your investment, you must have a plan.
Before the Conference
1. Set your agenda. Who are the speakers and what are the topics offered? What are the sessions that interest you?
2. Deploy social media. Does the event have a blog or a page on Facebook you can follow? What is the hashtag or Twitter handle for the event? Follow the speakers and event on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Reach out to connections on LinkedIn and find out who else from your network is attending.
3. Make lists. What questions do you want answered? Who can you connect with? Create a list in Twitter of people who are Tweeting using the conference hashtag and search that list for conversation starters and opportunities to engage.
4. Set specific goals. What do you want to come away with? Smart market insight? New innovations? How many new people will you meet? How many people will you reconnect with? How many action items will you take away?
5. Pack. Bring business cards and supplies for capturing info, whether it be cell phone, tablet or notebook and pen. Comfortable shoes and a small snack can help keep you going during a long day.
During the conference:
6. Introduce yourself. Challenge yourself to break away from co-workers and meet new people. Chat with those around you. Conversations often have as much value as a session.
7. Stay connected. Use social media to share photos and insight from your day and use the conference hashtag. If the conference has an app, download it.
8. Gather information. Ask lots of questions and take notes, photos and video, as conference protocol allows.
After the conference:
9. Pause and recap. Connect the value of the conference to business goals and develop a list of takeaways and action items. Share what you have learned with your team, business partners, clients and prospective customers.
10. Follow up. Enter business cards into your contact list. Send emails to those with whom you engaged and connect with them on social media. Fulfill any promises you made. Search for blogs on the event, comment on them and share them.
After attending a recent Sales Mastery 2014 event, Cindy Ertman, EVP and National Sales Manager at RPM, was energized and inspired. “After 26 years in the mortgage industry, I’m still amazed at how I learn to expand my business and my knowledge base when I invest in myself.” Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself and, when you do, create a plan for getting the most out of that investment.
By Amy Malloy