10 Things I do to Work a Conference Before it Begins
My company has been sending me to many conferences lately and I definitely can’t complain. However it’s important to keep in mind that “working” a conference is different than just “attending”. I’ve already blogged about things to do DURING a conference to engage your Twitter followers. I’ve also blogged about post conference strategies AFTER you attend on how to turn a follow up email into a connection. But what about BEFORE the conference begins? As I prepare for PubCon I want to share my top 10 personal conference preparation list .
1. Find out who’s going to attend– Many conferences don’t post attendee lists on their website so social media is the key here. The best resource I used to find attendees is Facebook Events. Although many profiles are private you have the first and last names of those who RSVPed. You can then look up on LinkedIn. LinkedIn events is second to Facebook events and then I will use Twitter Search.
2. Do research on sponsors and exhibitors– Find out what companies are going above and beyond to have a presence at the event and do research as to why. Are they working on a new product launch? Is there a specific promotion they’re putting resources into? Knowing these facts allows you to position yourself as to why you will be a great resource or partner for that company. You will be prepared with knowledgeable conversation starters when meeting someone from the sponsoring organization or visiting an exhibitor’s booth. A list of sponsors and exhibitors can always be found on the event website . Go on the companies’ websites and carefully read the about, news and press release sections.
3. Socialize on the web with those you’d like to meet– When doing your research on attendees and sponsors, create a list of those you’d like to connect with and have a valuable reason for why they would want to meet with you. Connect and interact with these individuals on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, their blogs etc. This helps build your credibility and shows that you’re engaged in their work, it will make the next tip a lot easier.
4. Set specific times for meetings– Invite your prospective business clients and partners to meet at lunch or for a coffee break. Conferences get hectic so make sure you have a confirmed date/time and place in advanced. Having an established is essential. Do research on nearby coffee shops or find out if the conference has private meeting rooms or quiet table areas. You may have to move the meeting time during the event but at least you have a commitment to meet which is much better than “let’s touch base during the day to see if we can meet up” many times this doesn’t end up happening.
5. Set up a small intimate happy hour or dinner- One of the things I love doing is connecting various people who will all mutually benefit myself and each other. Set up your own small happy hour 5-8 people who work in different disciplines. Invite a few people you know, a few you may have met during the conference and a few people you have identified as wanting to meet. Use your best judgement when deciding if inviting a specific person will benefit the entire happy hour group.
6. Post reminders on Social Media in advanced– Use EasyTweets to post sessions you are speaking at, participating in or know you will be at in advanced. Post the exact date, time and location. You will need to be cognizant of event schedules that may change to update these tweets if necessary. This makes your tweeting more efficient as you won’t have to worry about tweeting your schedule during the event. Set up tweets to post anywhere from an hour to 30 minutes the session so people know where to find you. Use Selective Twitter Status to post reminder udpates on Facebook, especially if you’re speaking.
7. Have an agenda but be flexible- Review the agenda and highlight sessions, educational panels and forums and you’d like to attend. Do research on those presenting and their specific topics. Be prepared with specific questions or insights that may relate to the topic being presented. This prepares you to learn something valuable that matches up with your needs during Q & A time. This also allows you to prepare your introduction to the speaker after they leave the stage with relevant content and information.
8. Meet other business contacts in the area– Go through your contacts and LinkedIn to find out who else lives in that area and any companies you may want to work with that are headquartered in that city. Even if they aren’t attending the conference set up a time to meet a day before or after. Depending on your schedule this may not be possible, but it’s always something to keep in mind. Since you’re flying all the way out there might as well optimize your presence.
9. Technology Packing list– This seems silly, but at every conference I go to I run into multiple people who left their phone charger or laptop charger at home. Make a list of all technology you need and ensure that it’s packed right before you leave for the airport. This includes your phone charger, laptop charger, extra batteries for equipment, mp3 player, camera, equipment to upload videos and photos (especially helpful for live bloggers) and anything else of that nature. Not having a piece of technology definitely puts a damper (more so than anything else that’s missing) in your day so avoid this by being prepared.
10. Establish a follow up strategy- Don’t wait until you return from the event to establish a follow up strategy. Have this set before you leave. Identify key resources you can offer to attendees so you can excite those you meet and prompt them to expect a follow up with valuable information. Perhaps you have a new white paper, an upcoming webinar, a future speaking engagement or a new product launch. Let people know to look forward to an email from you that will provide something valuable such as those items I listed. Have an email draft that can be customized for each individual which includes your value offering. This reduces the chance a follow up email will be viewed as spam and increases the chances that your follow up will be success. Refer your follow up back to your conversation at the event. “Here is a link to the white paper I promised you during our conversation.”
11. Have fun! This is a bonus and just a friendly reminder that although you are traveling for work, there is no reason not to enjoy yourself. If you don’t meet someone or miss a session then there will be other opportunities so don’t let that bring you down.
What are some other things do you do to prepare for a conference? Share your own tips in the comments and see you all at PubCon!