Conference Game Plan – 6 Aspects

On August 11, 2014, in Conference, Insights, Networking, by Phillip A. Jones

conferenceAttending an conference can be a significant investment in time, energy and money, plus there is an opportunity cost of what you’ll need to catch up on back at the office when you return.

So why go?

Well, as a delegate, if you’ve chosen the event well, you’ll not only learn something but meet a range of useful contacts you normally wouldn’t.

In reality, its the people you meet there that is the good stuff at a conference, the topics are often just an excuse to gather.

But that’s just the starting point, without a considered plan to leverage your investment, you’re really missing out.

Remember that the delegates are keen to others too whilst they’re there and you’ve a bunch to talk about such as the speakers, ideas raised, what brought them there at alia.

1. Right People, Right Place

Presuming you know why your attending the event, there are some things you need to consider:

  •     The rank or level of the delegates likely to be attending
  •     The program design and the likely opportunity to network informally
  •     Who is representing your organisation,, they need to be able to relate to the delegates
  •     The organisations likely to be present so you can prepare accordingly.

2. Skipping Class

Don’t feel obliged to attend every session. If there is a space such as a delegate coffee or recharging lounge then hangout there and strike up a conversation.

If there is an exhibition area, they are often neglected during sessions, so its the best time to say hello and get acquainted with them, they may be a good contact to make.

Make sure you attend all the social events, and if you’ve colleagues, split up and seat on different tables to meet as many people as possible.

3. Come Prepared 

If you know who’s coming, or likely to attend, and why you’re going (i.e. your objectives are defined) then you can then do some of the following:

  • Prepare your talking points, and narratives about yourself, organisation, expertise that will be relevant to the people you’re likely to meet
  • Plan your wardrobe and stock up on your business cards
  • Do some research on the delegates and speakers you know is attending
  • If attending with colleagues, split up across sessions, key contacts, tables and activities so you maximise the number of people you’ll meet
  • If there are key stakeholders attending, then consider the opportunity to meet with them one on one, and decide beforehand on any outcomes you want to gain from the engagement.

4. Broadcasting via Social Media

It’s more common now for conferences to have their own social media presence, such as a facebook page or twitter account + hashtag,  so make sure you tune into that and contribute to the conversation before, during and after the event.

A few tweets during the event can be a good way to show your own followers that you’re out and about and share some of the key take homes with them.

Like, follow or subscriber to the speakers, participating organisations and exhibitors whilst your there to take the engagement to another level and raise your own profile in the process.

Post event you can share some insights with your own audience through a blog, LinkedIn update or slideshare pack, its a great way to stay top of mind and add value at the same time.

5. Debrief the Team

Whilst you may want to catch up with the day to day when you get back, take the time to debrief with your colleagues who you met, what your learnt, what opportunities there are to follow-up and plan some next steps.

Don’t leave your insights, learning and experiences in your head!

There will be homework to do post event, and you may need to allocate roles in the team to follow-up key people, apply the knowledge you’ve gained and make the most of the opportunities.

6. LinkedIn and Following-up

As I said at the start, the event is just the starting point, so now you’ve got all those business cards, what now?

This is where LinkedIn is your friend, reach out to them within a week of the event with a personalised note and ask to be connected with them- EVERYONE YOU MET.

It will provide a simple way to stay in touch with them and vice versa.

For possible high value contacts or stakeholders then an additional email or follow-up will be required in a systematic way.

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