Heading to a marketing conference this year? Do these 7 things first. In less than two weeks I’ll be heading to the USA to attend Social Media Marketing World, a big marketing conference with thousands of delegates from around the world. Given running events for marketers is a big part of my business, I’m pretty excited about attending a conference without having to do any planning or organising for it! I’m looking forward to networking, learning and soaking it all up! I’m very keen to make sure that I make the most of this opportunity as going overseas (without my kids) for a work event is a fairly rare and special occasion. Being a planner, I want to make sure I’ve prepared to leverage this event to the max.

Here’s how I’ve prepared for it:

New business cards: Yes, I’m very digital, but I also want to have business cards up to date for those occasions that call for it. My business cards are out of date so I’m organising a re-print. Research the program and speakers: It’s a three-day event so I have blocked out two hours in my diary to spend some solid time looking at the program, to prioritise the sessions and to research the speakers prior to the event. Connect with other attendees prior to event: I’ve already shared my intentions to attend this conference and have exchanged emails with other people who are also attending. Before the event, I am reaching out to them again to see if there is a way to catch up around the event. There is also an app for the event with lots of conversations and opportunity to engage with other delegates. Connect with marketers in San Diego and New York: As part of this trip I’m going to both New York and San Diego. I’ve been thinking about the connections I might already have in these cities and whether I can catch up with them whilst I’m nearby. I’ve already reached out to a few of my contacts (including Brisbane marketers who now live in America and local experts who we’ve brought to Australia to speak previously) and am making times to catch up. Can’t wait! Get my intro right: Throughout my trip I’ll definitely be asked “what do you do”. It’s often the first question that gets asked, especially in a networking context. But do you know how to answer it in a way that starts a conversation, rather than ends it? I’ve been listening to a podcast by Clay Hebert who has some great ideas on how to nail your intro. It’s all about following a format of “I help to ”. Block out diary time after event: It’s easy to attend an event, feel that you get a lot out of it, but then walk away and not do anything different afterwards. I want to make sure that I have allocated time to review the learnings and ideas that I get from the event, as well as to follow up with the connections I make on the day. I’m allocating half a day to follow up on my notes and connections in the week after the event. Plan to learn: I’m hoping that by the time I arrive at the conference I’ll have a good idea of the learning gaps I want to fill at this event. Plus, I’m also thinking about how I can share those learnings with others in my team and beyond, whether it be through an article, a video or other. It’s true that I’m giving this event extra thought and preparation because I’m travelling so far to be there, but it’s worth thinking about how these tips apply to any event you’re attending. After all, once you’re paying for a ticket and dedicating your time, you’ve already made a commitment and it’s worth getting as much out of that commitment as you can!