Are you going to an industry conference soon? Have you thought about what you need to do to be ready? There are a few things you can start thinking about now to make sure you get the most out of the event you’re attending.
Most people go to events without putting too much thought into it prior. We book our tickets, pop the date in the calendar and that is about it until the day. As someone that runs a lot of events, I’d like to share some tips that I think help attendees to get more out of the learning and networking opportunities at the event.
It all starts with a plan
Events can be a fun day out of the office where you get to spend time with peers, meet some new people and learn a few bits and pieces along the way. However, like everything worthwhile, putting a plan in place helps to make sure you have thought about what you want out of attending the event and how it will come together. A plan will also help you to manage the expectations of any stakeholders (particularly if someone else paid for your ticket) and ensure the tangible value is gained from your attendance.
The Questions to Ask
There are a number of questions you can ask yourself in the lead up to the event, to make sure you have considered the context and expectations of your attendance. I’ve compiled a list here of what I recommend you think about.
- Why are you attending?
Make sure you understand your main purpose of attending the event. Is it to gain knowledge, to stay up to date with the industry, to share knowledge back to the organisation, to meet new people or something else? If you’re really keen, perhaps consider setting some goals around what you hope to achieve by attending the event.
- Are there any expectations on you to consider?
If your work is paying for your conference ticket, or if you are part of larger team, there may be some expectations around your attendance. Will you be expected to share key learnings from the event back to the team? Will you and your peers split up on the day to be part of different sessions? Is it expected that you will make some new connections to help with upcoming projects, team growth or clients? Knowing this will likely guide your approach to the event.
- Who else is going?
Do you know who else is going? Some companies send multiple team members to an event while at others it may just be you who is attending. Try and understand if other team members are going and think about whether you want to hang out together for the day, or whether you might get more out of it if you split up for some of it to force yourself to meet new people and learn different things. Many events will provide some type of attendee list or mobile app that will allow you to prepare for who else is going to be at the event and think about who you want to meet or connect with on the day. If you’re keen you can even plan in advance to catch up with people in the lunch break or at the end of the day.
- How will you take notes?
Everyone has a different note taking style but it’s worthwhile thinking about your plan before the day and checking on the event setup. Sometimes knowing how you will be sitting (theatre style, round table etc) might impact on your decisions. Also will slides be provided after the event? Keep in mind that while some events aim to provide all slides, sometimes speakers can restrict distribution of theirs. So if you really love a slide and want to remember it, I suggest you take a photo! Will you take notes electronically (laptop, tablet, phone) or take a notepad and pen? Some events may provide you with these, but if you’re not sure, take your own so that you aren’t left without.
- What speakers/sessions do you want to see?
It’s important you look at the final program to make sure you know who is speaking, what topics will be the most relevant to you and if there are concurrent sessions, you may need to decide who you most want to hear. Remember that most speakers are eager to meet others at the event too so you might want to try and meet a certain speaker at the event after their presentation.
- What will you do with your learnings?
Hopefully the event you’re attending will create a buzz and leave delegates feeling enthusiastic and excited about what they have heard, the opportunities ahead and of what they can do to improve their outcomes. But if you don’t have a plan for how you will use your new insights when you leave the event, the momentum can be lost. I recommend making time in your calendar (perhaps the next day) to summarise your top 5 learnings, ideas or insights from the day and to take the actions you need to. Aim to connect with at least 5 new people after the event (and follow up with them) or prepare an event summary that you can share with the team.
- Where is the event and how will you get there and what is provided?
This one is a bit of a no brainer, but take the time to make sure you know there the event is and organise your travel arrangements. Sometimes conferences change venues from year to year and you don’t want to miss out on a presentation because you’re late.
If you do the planning before you go to a conference and ask you yourself these questions, you’ll be much more likely to get more out of your involvement and be able to translate your attendance into value for yourself and who you work for. What is the next conference you are attending? If you are looking for an awesome marketing conference this year, make sure you check out our digital marketing conference, The Digital Summit