If you’ve never attended a business conference, you might have no idea what to expect. And if you have attended a conference, you know that you’ll be on the go at all times, attending speaker sessions, manning a booth, and networking with other professionals. This is why it can be helpful to prepare well in advance. To that end, here are several business conference hacks to ensure you make the most of your time.
1. Review the conference materials in advance
When you receive the agenda for the conference, take some time to go over it thoroughly. Since there will most likely be a variety of events taking place simultaneously at the conference, you should devise a plan for which events you want to attend and write down your tentative schedule. Conferences can be chaotic when you first arrive, so the fewer decisions you have to make once you’re there, the better.
Also, do yourself a favor and take a look at a map to familiarize yourself with the conference space in advance. Conference venues can be sprawling, but taking just a few minutes to orient yourself beforehand can prevent you from getting lost and save you extra time at the event.
2. Determine who will be in attendance
Arguably the most important takeaway from a conference is the relationship building—the conversations you have and new contacts you make. So before you arrive, try to determine who will be in attendance—both clients and prospects. You can typically find a list of attendees on the conference website, so take some time to reach out to clients or prospects you hope to connect with and set up meetings in advance. Plan client dinners and make reservations at restaurants, so you’re not scrambling to find places at the last minute.
3. Set an out-of-office reply
Chances are, you won’t be able to check your email with your normal frequency over the course of the conference. Make it a point to set an out-of-office reply before you leave, so your clients and colleagues know not to expect immediate responses from you. This will ease your stress, and then later, when you have down time, you can respond to urgent requests; you can save the rest for when you get back to the office.
4. Dress appropriately
You’ll probably be wearing the same outfit for hours on end at the conference, so be sure to dress comfortably and appropriately. If you’re staying in a hotel near the conference, there’s a strong chance you’ll run into clients or other conference attendees in the hallways, so make it a point to look presentable even in your “off” time. And don’t forget to bring comfortable shoes with you! You’ll most likely be on your feet for hours at a time during the conference.
5. Make sure you have all the supplies you need
Finally, take inventory of your supplies and make sure you have everything you need before heading over to the conference. That includes your phone and laptop chargers, swag to give away, and any demo materials you need. Bring a notebook and pen, in case you want to remember specific points from speaker sessions. And most important, keep an ample supply of business cards on you. Make sure to exchange business cards with all the people you talk to, so you can remember their names and follow up with them later. Jot down some notes on the back of each card with key takeaways from your conversations, so you can follow up with individuals accordingly.
In the end, a conference is a fantastic way to strengthen your existing relationships with clients and forge connections with prospects, so be sure to take advantage of all it has to offer!