Preparing For Your Next Conference – A primer for success

I’m attending my 3rd conference this week as CEO of Net Minds.  Sure, I’ve spoken at 200 conferences over the last decade, but that is not the same thing as attending one as a company team member.  I’ve taken it for granted that I know conferences, but in fact, getting ready for this week has led to soul searching regarding my strategy. 

After all, going to a multi-day conference (2 of them back-to-back) ruins an entire week of operational work and involved traveling on Sunday.  I need to derive a high return on investment to make it worth my company’s time (and mine personal time too).  

To be successful this week, I’ve followed these steps: 

1.  Create a goal for each event that is measurable and attainable.  In this case, it required doing some research as to who is attending and how they intersect with our business needs.  In this case, I’ve determined six people per event I’m going to connect with, and in each situation, a deliverable that I’ll tee up. 

2. Pick out the content I want to absorb and get acquainted with the subject/presenter prior the event.  Doing this gives me the ability to deeply listen to the presentation, and still be able to tweet during it or ask questions.  I will not show up and spontaneously decide which keynotes or panels I will attend.  I’ve also asked my team to nominate presentations I should attend. 

3.  Be a reporter on the event.  We are all in the marketing department these days, and tweeting or blogging about an event is a great way to gain new friends/followers and perhaps be a part of the event’s schedule next year. TIP: End your coverage tweets with the official event hashtag #.  It’s a great way to “show up” at your event and start new relationships.

4.  Don’t stay any longer than is useful.  In both cases, I’ll be leaving prior the event’s conclusion to get back to work or on to the next event.  Why?  These events are mostly frontloaded for me, where I’m getting most of my value in the first two days.  (Why are events three or four days, with the end just being a wrap up?)

5.  Organize my acquired contacts and follow up within a week.  All the work we do at events is fruitless if we lose the connections due to latency.  Next week, I’ll be sending out a few dozen emails either confirming next steps or forging/forwarding my new relationships. 

What are your conference prep tricks?  Please tell me in the comments.  If I use one of them in an edit to this post, I’ll buy you an iTunes gift certificate!