I’ve been working with NMX for about three years now, and it amazes me the behind-the-scenes info I’ve learned in that time. In order to make your next conference experience go a little more smoothly, I put together this blog post to share some of the secrets I’ve learned. I hope to see you at NMX 2014 putting these tips into effect! (Register for NMX here.)
1. Our hands are often tied…but it can’t hurt to ask. Talk to us!
If you have a creative idea or a request, always reach out to the conference staff. Often, the answer you’ll get is no, but don’t mistake this for being ignored. Conferences centers have rules. Budget can be limiting. We have to consider staffing and insurance and a million other little things that most people never realize is part of planning a conference. (Our Operations Director Dani is definitely the unsung hero of NMX for all the moving parts she handles!)
But it can’t hurt to ask. We want to say yes to you! If you don’t ask, the answer will be no for sure.
2. You can get special perks by name-dropping with our sponsors and exhibitors.
Often, our sponsors and exhibitors will offer special deals to our conference attendees. The same is true at other conferences as well. All you have to do is ask. Be polite about it, but recognize that YOU are their target market, and they want to make you happy so you tell others about whatever product or service they have to offer.
For example, let’s say that you’re speaking to an exhibitor who sells a premium WordPress plugin. You might say, “I’d love to test this out. Would you be willing to give me a free trial once I get home?” Or let’s say that you’re having dinner at a club sponsoring one of the parties. When you get there, you could ask, “Do you have any specials for conference attendees?” The worst you can get is a no, and often the answer will be yes!
3. Want the best info and opportunities? You gotta be on the mailing list.
We make announcements and offers via our social accounts and here on the blog, but it’s pretty easy to miss that kind of thing in the stream. Want to make sure you don’t miss a deadline, discount, or opportunity? Get on our mailing list. (See the sidebar.) This is true of most conferences.
4. Approach us when you have issues. Tell us about problems at the show or immediately afterward.
Like every conference out there, we always do our absolute best to constantly improve the show. All year long, we’re working on it. If you want a lot of attention to a specific problem, however, the best time to mention it is during the show itself if you see one of us in the hall and can discreetly pull us aside to mention it or immediately after the show in a private conversation. After each NMX, we get together as a staff to talk about how things went and what we can do better, and this is prime time for problem-solving for us. Sometimes, by the time we know about a problem with a show one year, it is too late to fix it for the next year. Sooner is better!
5. Say hello to staff and doors will open.
We want to help you! I can’t speak for every conference and tradeshow, but NMX was founded on the idea of helping the new media community and industry on a whole. And you, individually, are part of that, no matter what your experience level. We often come across opportunities for bloggers, podcasters, and other content creators, and when people ask us for recommendations, we can’t give them your name if we’ve never met you. For example, just the other week someone asked me for recommendations on hiring a writer and the list I gave her of people to contact were all NMXers.
So say hi when you see us in the halls. We’re not too busy for you. It’s our business to get to know every single attendee. We want to introduce you to others so you can make business deals, work together, and both grow your businesses.
6. If you want to meet an A-lister, have a question ready.
The absolute best way to meet an A-lister, especially if you want him/her to remember you, is to have an intelligent question ready to go for after the session. You can sometimes meet these people in the halls, on the show floor, or in the new media lounge (our conference workspace), but don’t count on it. Once, I watched Darren Rowse of Problogger try to walk to the next session and her literally was stopped by people every 3 feet. I don’t think he ever made it! Is he going to remember all of the people he met? Probably not. But if you remind an A-lister, “I was the one who asked you about…” they will be more likely to recall you. Jot down some questions as you’re listening to presentations and run to the mic when the session is over.
7. Time on the show floor can lead to amazing business deals.
I’ve already written about how the show floor can change your life, but it’s worth mention again here. Don’t miss out on the opportunities a tradeshow expo hall gives you. At times, this is even more valuable than networking with other attendees in the halls.
8. When you’re pushy, people notice and they try to avoid dealing with you.
The picture above is featuring one of our past sponsors instead of picturing guilty parties! If you’ve been part of this community for any amount of time, you know the people I’m talking about. If you’re new…well, you’ll find out pretty quickly!
I’m naturally introverted and even a little shy, so I’m perhaps a little more sensitive to pushy people than others who might be more extroverted. It’s a fine line. You want to be heard, but you also need to avoid being rude.
When you’re pushy, people notice. They’ll attempt to avoid you. There are certain people who I see at networking receptions that make me turn on my heels because I know they’re going to pitch me, complain about minute details that are out of my control, and guilt-trip me into doing them favors. It’s not just me. Trust me, if you’re pushy, entire communities will mention this when you’re not around and try to avoid you. Be someone who gives more often than takes.
9. Stick around after the keynote and you can meet amazing people.
After a keynote, people typically stream out of the hall or ballroom. Whenever I attend a conference, NMX or otherwise, I make a beeline in the other direction. Sometimes keynoters are whisked away by their “people.” But other, they hang out on stage for at least ten minutes or so to shake hands and take pictures. If you head to the doors after hearing a keynote from someone you really enjoyed, you’re going the wrong direction. At the very least, going to the stage could help you meet staff members who may be able to get you an interview with the keynoter in the greenroom. See point number 1 – it never hurts to ask!
10. Attending official events makes the entire event possible.
Lastly, if you like a conference, make a point to show up at official events. They make it possible for the conference to happen again next year, while unofficial events that happen at the same time hurt the conference.
How? Well, most conferences’ official events (like parties or networking receptions) are sponsored. If attendance is low because people are going to an unofficial event that’s happening at the same time, the sponsor doesn’t get as much value, and they will be less likely to sponsor again. Without sponsors, a conference can’t exist. On the other hand, if official event attendance is higher, the sponsor will be more likely to come back or even pay more money the next year because they got such great value.
The better sponsors a conference has, the more money we have to invest back in the show. More money equals better keynoters, special events and perks for attendees, better venues, and lower ticket prices. So skip that unofficial event and at least make an appearance at the official events when possible, and if you have a good time, mention the sponsor on your blog, podcast, or social accounts to say thank you for hosting.
I hope you’ll use the above tips the next time you attend a conference, and I especially hope to see you putting these tips into practice at NMX 2014. What questions do you have about our show or conferences in general? Leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer!