TED Photo The conference season is upon us. Are you ready?

Notices on Social Media channels are popping up for SXSW, Social Media Marketing World, TED and TEDx and many other events and conferences. There are countless conferences you could attend and some you should attend and some you MUST attend. This article is not about selecting which conferences deserve your valuable time. This post includes a few tips you can use today as you plan for the upcoming Conference Season so that you can maximize the use of your most valuable resource. Your Time!

Some have already happened. For example, CES and NRF happened in early January in Las Vegas and New York City, respectively. Of course, there are many more conferences coming up. Some are not nearly as large and pumped up as those mentioned above, but every conference you decide to attend should get your utmost attention. Your reputation and your ability to Stand Out in Your Career are on the line.

The question is: When YOUR next Conference Opportunity comes up… Will You Be Ready!?

You never get a second chance to  make a first impression.

Very much like the Olympics preparation is critical to insure we Get the Most out of the Conference Season.

Here are a four tips & tricks I have gathered over the years that have helped me get the most from every conference I attend.

Business cards

Yes. This little piece of paper stills holds power and has a place in the modern business world.

  • Generally there are two kinds of cards:
    • Professional – Those your place of business has created to highlight the mission, brand and value.
    • Personal – these highlight your hobbies, passions, non-profits you work with, boards where you participate, and volunteer work you have committed your time.
  • When to give them one out vs. the other?
    • Keep in mind WHO IS PAYING for you to be there. If you are there for work… go Professional, Stay Professional and Be Professional.
    • If this is part of your personal business or your Side Hustle (see Ross Simmonds great SlideShare) consider going Personal.

Elevator pitch

There are many examples of what constitutes a good elevator pitch. The gist is that you have less than 30 seconds to get your point across. Use those 30 seconds wisely.

  • Here are two great examples on Elevator Pitches from fellow writers on the Personal Branding Blog:
    • 3 Reasons Your Personal Brand Needs an Elevator Pitch by Scott Bradley
    • In 30 seconds or less what is your elevator pitch? by Dan Schawbel

Pre-event efforts

  • People – Know who you want to connect with and why.
  • Venue – Scope it out. Know the layout before you arrive. Build a map for the vendors, sessions and parties you want to attend.
  • Extra Time – Leave time in your schedule for changes. Not huge gaps, but time for coffee with a colleague or new found friend. The last thing you want to do is be forced to run to your next meeting when you are just about to have a great conversation with the person right in front of you.
  • Setup Meetings – Schedule Meetings with the people or companies you want to meet with before you go. People are busy. They will fill up their dance card early. Be one of the first to get on their calendar.
    • Keep the other person in kind in mind when considering a conversation:
      • What are their goals?
      • How do they align with yours?
      • If they aren’t aligned … One of you is in the wrong place
    • How do you know if you are talking to the right person or company?
      • Do your Research.
      • Ask Questions.
      • Never assume!

Post-event efforts

Follow Up! This one seemingly simple step will set you apart from 80% of the competition. Make it short, specific and personal. Add some element of your conversation in your follow up efforts. Not only will it help the other person remember, but it also shows you were paying attention.

Set yourself apart. Follow up with crisp, clear and concise communications.

What if you cannot make it?

  • Virtually attend? Check with the conference to see if there is an option to “attend” online. More and more these days, sessions are streamed online.
  • Colleagues Attending? If you cannot attend, or didn’t get approval to attend, see if you can get one of your colleagues or peers to take a bit of their time to do a bit of your bidding. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Worst case… they are too busy with their plans (which they should be if they use these tips) and they have to say no.
  • If it’s purely financial:
    • Ask for a Discount – Remember: If you don’t ask you don’t get.
    • Seek a Pass – Again, if you don’t ask… Some conferences keep extra passes for special guests and extenuating circumstances. That could be you!
    • Seek a sponsor – Again, there are some companies that will offer a pass in trade for something. Ask!

There you have it

Four tips to insure you maximize your time during the upcoming Conference Season. Will you be ready? Do you have your list of conferences already set? Do you have your checklist ready to insure you get the most out of the conference?

The conference season is upon us. Are you ready?

If you need more … see my 8 Tips for Trade Show Success that I posted in 2012.