Do you do go to industry events and conferences?
If you do then read further.
Recently a close friend and I were discussing ideas around attending conferences and meet ups. That discussion motivated me to write this post.
At times I go to industry events as a speaker, many a times as an attendee. For many years now I have also been hosting events. The thoughts shared here are focussed on helping attendees who are looking for ways to get the best out of their time at conferences, meet ups and community events.
Before you go to the conference
A little planning never hurts.
Think about your reason.
Think about why you are going to the conference. I go for relationships and positive energy more than anything else. You reasons may be same as mine or maybe you are out to learn, find a cofounder or potential employees.
Get your cards ready.
If you are there to improve your personal brand then you may get special cards printed – may be with your twitter handle, your website or blog URL on it. If you want to go a step further then get a couple of custom t-shirts made with a logo or website URL printed on it.
Just see if there is a list of confirmed attendees online. Good if you find some familiar names; connect with them before the event happens and then plan to meet at the conference.
Get your elevator pitch ready.
What is an elevator pitch? Some of you may ask. An elevator pitch his is what you say in response to “so what do you do” question. It should not take longer than 15 seconds to explain. Sure you are a man of many talents; but no need to disclose your all talents during initial introduction. An elevator pitch serves the purpose well in such situations.
Find an event buddy.
Before you become well versed with the people in community and they become comfortable with you; find a friend who is interested in the topic of the conference you are planning to go to. Let us call this friend your “event buddy”. You both can keep each other’s company when you are at the event.
On the day of the conference
I would say reach as early as 1 hour if it suits you. It will help you make connections when everybody is fresh and looking forward to the day.
Bring your event buddy along.
The key here is not to be with your event buddy all the time. Just try to explore some new connections during breaks; you may come back and sit together later.
Dress for the occasion.
Check this; recently I went to an event hosted by Melinda Gates. Thanks to some delays at the beginning of the day; I had to take a call between not attending and going wearing a t-shirt, jeans and a pair of sneakers. I chose the latter.
I was lucky to find a friend wearing something similar still we were the odd ones out. This was a business event so it would have made sense to wear something formal. Point is, by dressing formal (read serious) you send a signal that you mean business. At times this is what is required.
Also use commonsense while deciding. If you are going to a start-up weekend or BarCamp kind of event no point wearing a suit but otherwise choose formal over casual.
If the event falls over a weekend do not look like you are coming straight from the bed. Looking fresh also comes from feeling fresh. You know what I mean.
You may be reserved or an introvert by nature; but when you are at a conference — just go and talk to people. If you find it really hard, start with listening to conversations during breakout sessions. Then move on to saying hi, this is (Your name here). If you do not want to talk then you may better stay at home and watch videos on TED.com or have fun otherwise.
Do not over do it.
Do not try to do everything (making connections, pitching for a job or funding etc.) at the conference itself. Treat it as an opportunity to make initial connection. Take it slow and easy like you would on your first date.
Because it helps your capture moments and it is good to be able to take some memories home. Further when you click the photo of a person or a group it is likely that some of them will come to you and ask to take a look at the photograph. Some will even share their email ids requesting the images to be emailed. Ice broken, connection made, and mission accomplished. Happy now.
After the conference is over
Just check out what to do after you exchange cards and do as suggested.
Be at it.
It helps if you attend events on a regular basis. You need not attend one event every week but once a month or once in two months is ok. Depends on time on your hand and what stage of life you are at.
It helps if you are seen in the community. When you are a newbie on local event circuit people may just give you a passing look; during your next event more people will notice your face. By the time you are on to your 4th or 5th event in a year, you will start to find some familiar faces. Soon it will look like your own turf and you will start enjoying the experience.
Hope this helps you make the best use of time at a conference.
See you soon at an event.