You’ve booked the tickets. You’ve found a place to sleep. You’ve broken every single piggy bank you’ve ever owned and paid the registration fee (or registered early and got a really good deal, because why waste perfectly good piggy banks?). And now the day has finally come – The Much Anticipated Conference is finally here, and you’re off, with your phone, laptop, tablet, chargers and friendship bracelets tucked away in your backpack.
But let’s face it: conferences can be a rather chaotic affair. As frequent and avid conference goers, we’ve put together a list of tips that may help you get the very best out of the event:
1. Plan ahead
One does not simply walk into Mordor. Similarly, one does not simply walk into a conference without a solid game plan – including, but not limited to, all the places that sell food that can pass for lunch. With all the great keynote speeches to hear, sessions to attend, people to meet and booths to visit, there will hardly be room for a three-course meal. So pull out that conference agenda, and mark away! Pick some favorites and a few backups – it’ll be as easy as choosing which college to attend (by which we mean, there may be tears).
2. Be flexible
You’ve picked out the three sessions you’d physically fight people to attend – but you lost, or the speakers cancelled last minute. Now what? This is when your backups come in handy: some of the best sessions we’ve attended were completely spontaneous calls that featured an awesome audience and a speaker who is a part time blogging messiah, and part-time stand-up comedian. We’ve loved him so much that we invited him to speak at our own conference. See how that works?
3. Check out those booths
Things that can happen if you ignore those conference booths: a cute baby animal dies. Or, somewhat more likely, the people who are ridiculously passionate about their work (and may have flown over 4,000 miles to be there) don’t get to pass on that enthusiasm to you, which is totally your loss, dude. Not only can you score awesome freebies, you can also find unexpected business opportunities: we’ve been known to interview bloggers that use .me, feature them on our blog and social media channels, and give them the extra exposure they deserve! So check out those booths.
4. Bring business cards. Bring more.
If done right, conferences are usually 70% learning, 30% networking and 100% fun. I just made those numbers up, but jokes aside – while you’ll no doubt be inspired by the speeches you hear and the stuff you learn, don’t hesitate to share it with all the awesome people around you! And in these Days of Digital, don’t forget that business cards (especially neat ones with your headshot on the back) can go a long way in nurturing the new relationships you’ve created.
5. Follow up!
You’ve met ALL THE PEOPLE. Now what? Easy: as soon as you sleep of the post-conference excitement, go through those business cards and shoot everyone an email. This step is especially important for potential business partners – remind them where you’ve met, perhaps what you’ve discussed and where you’d like to go from there. Including a personal comment will always get you brownie points – we get tons of these emails after sponsoring conferences, and the ones that stand out are from people that paid attention to my (slight) obsession with chocolate, or the fact that our company is based in Montenegro, population: 620,000.
With this cheat-sheet in hand, you’re guaranteed to have a fun, memorable and productive event. We’re also looking forward to hearing your voice: what tips, if any, would you add? What are some of your favorite ways of approaching people or businesses? Lastly, what’s the best memory from a conference that you’d like to share with the Internet?