Business conferences provide entrepreneurs a great platform to both grow their network and expand their knowledge and understanding of important industry topics that can impact bottom lines. When you make the choice to attend a conference, you’re making an important investment in your business – in exchange for your time and the fee, you can make connections to potential clients, customers and colleagues, as well as learn from experts in their fields.
In order to reap the benefits of attending a conference, planning is key. Having a strategic plan for before, during and after the conference is a surefire way to maximize your conference experience and opportunities.
A little research goes a long way: It’s important to invest a little time and do a little research to make sure your time is well spent. In preparation, you can use the conference agenda to outline a strategy of which sessions you want to attend and which exhibitors and speakers you want to connect with.
Walk in prepared: Come prepared with questions, and be ready to pitch your business as those opportunities arise. To increase your brand awareness, you can also let your local media, particularly those who cover the business community, know about your plans to attend the conference and offer to be interviewed afterwards or submit a blog or photo to the media outlet.
During the Conference
Network, network, network: When you’re at a business conference, your first priority and job is to network. There will be hundreds of attendees who share your interest in the field. Don’t be shy about self-promotion! You are contributing to the economy by employing people and selling your goods and services. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished professionally and willing to discuss what you do and why it matters.
Growth happens outside your comfort zone: Make it a point to attend at least one session outside your normal business area or comfort zone. You never know who you might meet or what you might learn in the process.
Take notes: Take thoughtful notes in order to prepare for your interview with the media or use the notes for a blog you could write upon your return home.
Network online: Social media is great way for others to follow your progress and experience at the conference from afar. While on site, be a good conference guest by turning to social media to share pictures and thoughtful commentary on the event.
Connect with the host: If you have an idea for a panel or side event for the next conference, make sure you connect with the conference organizer to share your idea while you are on site. Organizers will appreciate you thinking about how to expand the conference moving forward.
The importance of follow up: After the conference, continue the new relationships you began by following up with personal notes or calls to people you enjoyed meeting (and don’t forget to include the conference organizers). You will also want to follow up with the local media contacts that you had originally contacted to share your experience and photos from the event. A photo can tell a thousand words, especially with local media.
Blog about your experience: Blogging about your experience also makes great, timely content for your website. In your follow-up to the conference organizers, share photos from the event, and offer to write a guest blog – or provide a quote – on how the conference benefited your business. They can use this content to promote their next conference. This kind of win-win promotion is a great way to keep good connections going.
Whether it’s before, during or after, conferences offer opportunities to invest in your business through connections with media, social media, organizers, attendees and experts. With some research, networking and follow-up, you can maximize the experience for your business and return recharged with new opportunities to pursue.