You’ve decided you really should attend a conference. Your business is up and running, but you’ve been in so deep with the details of running it and your personal life, you haven’t had to time to connect with your colleagues and other professionals in the field. You feel a little out of the loop, too, because you’ve been working hard but haven’t had time to catch up on the latest industry trends.

You’re right! Attending a conference is a great opportunity to meet people and find out what’s going on in your industry, but they can also be expensive, anxiety-provoking and time-consuming. COLIBRI enjoys attending conferences, but she knows they can be stressful because they involve networking and pull you away from your daily work. Then again, getting out of the routine is the point!

Having recently attended a couple of conferences, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your conference experience.

Before you go:

  1. Think of it as a retreat–you’ll be at work and also on vacation. Choose a notebook (or your laptop) and make it a conference “journal.” You’ll have all your thoughts in one place so it will be easier to access these notes later. Think of it as a creative opportunity and use color or tape in pictures if you want. Just remember to honor that you are taking time away from the day-to-day and make it special for yourself.
  2. Set aside time before you go (or use airport time) to think about what you want to get out of the conference.
  3. Sign up for one of the trips and tours offered at the bigger conferences. This is a great informal way to meet people, minus the social anxiety.
  4. Review what’s on offer before you arrive. You can always change it up once you get there, but it’s nice to have a game plan.
  5. If you have a press kit, bring a couple along, but recognize that people are traveling and don’t want extra stuff to lug around.
  6. If you can, be a speaker. Although speaking is another (potentially scary!) topic, being a speaker will immediately make you feel “in” and will set you at ease while you network.

While you’re there:

  1. Go through the “goodie” bag you get at registration and get rid of everything you don’t want right away. Why carry extra baggage
  2. Use your badge holder to carry business cards and store the business cards you receive.
  3. When you receive a business card, take a moment to look at the card, focus on the person’s name and then look at them and say, “thank you.”
  4. Attend one of the conference parties or social events. If you’re shy, you don’t have to stay long, but be sure to pop into at least one networking group. If nothing else, take a look at your colleagues. Observe them. Reflect. Practice being at ease in a group.
  5. Take breaks. If it’s getting to be too much, go back to your hotel room and take a nap. Enjoy room service. Watch a movie. Go for a swim.
  6. To prepare for going home, catch up on email before you leave (or use airport time). That way, you’ll feel less “behind” when you get back to your daily routine.

After you get home:

  1. Send emails and connect on LinkedIn or whatever platform works best for you. Include a short message reminding people where you met them.
  2. Consider sending notes on your (paper) stationary. You will stand out in the crowd!
  3. If you have a press kit, send it now. Better yet, if you have a useful resource or referral, pass it along.
  4. Use your notes to write up a blog post or two. Don’t just go with personal reflections, but think about what you learned that your customers and clients could truly benefit from knowing.
  5. Congratulate yourself. You took time to invest in your business’ long term growth and you put yourself out there and networked.

Now keep up the good work! And let us know if you have any hot conference tips to share.

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