It’s Friday afternoon around 15 minutes before closing time. Your phone rings. It’s one of your vendors offering you free registration to a conference they are sponsoring. You can’t attend, but you think it would be a great learning experience for the newest hire in your department. The kid is great when he’s behind a computer screen, but falls a little short in face-to-face social settings. You want to provide him with a few tips to rock his first conference. Here are a few tips to get started.
- Go with someone you know.
Walking into an unfamiliar place alone is difficult. If possible, attend with a coworker or friend. It will guarantee you someone to sit with for the opening remarks and, more importantly, at lunch. A conference buddy also will allow you to split up and cover more sessions. If you’re going to pay to attend a conference, you may as well “attend” as many sessions as possible.
- Research the topics being covered before you arrive.
Similar to college professors, speakers will expect you to have a basic understanding of the topic before you arrive. Their job is to provide examples of how to apply their expertise to your company rather than show you what it is. Without that knowledge, you’re more likely to disengage as soon as the speaker starts discussing a topic you’ve never heard of before.
- Put away your phone.
It’s a fact. We all compulsively check our email and fidget with our phones when given the opportunity. Having your phone in front of you will make you less likely to pay attention and more likely to be the only one in the room who knows the score of the baseball game. Put your phone away for the day and allow yourself to be engaged at the conference.
- Arrive early and stay late.
Use the conference not only to learn tricks of the trade, but to network and meet possible contacts for the future. Most conferences feature some sort of cocktail hour or meet and greet during the evening. Use this time to connect with others in your field and share industry tips and tricks. Who knows, the guy in the ugly gray sweater may be able to land you your next job.
- Take notes.
When you return back to work your boss and colleagues are going to want to know about your experience. Take notes and be able to provide specific examples of how what you learned can be applied to your company.
Some other tips to consider:
- Research the exhibitors, not just the learning sessions. Some of the most valuable things you can bring back to the office are new products/solutions for your organization and potential advertisers for your sales team.
- Don’t forget your “day job.” Just because you’re traveling on company business doesn’t mean you’re exempt from responding to important phone calls, emails and work-related issues. Experienced conference attendees set a few specific times of day to check in, not round the clock.
Remind the young lad to dress in his snazziest business casual outfit and throw a notebook and paper into a briefcase (a tablet or laptop will work, too). Most importantly, stress that the conference should be a fun learning experience and not an event to lose sleep over. If he follows these tips and the others that you provide, he’s guaranteed to have a successful day.
Hillary Levitz is an online marketing specialist with Naylor, LLC.