Making the most of my conference attendance!

Going to the Big Conference

Here’s one for those who attend conferences. Some juicy tips that will help you make the MOST of your dollars.

I’m headed out to a big fat conference in New York this week. All of the decision-makers in my industry are attending.

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I’ve gotten to be a bit of a pro at this (at least for myself) and would like to share my favorite tips for making the VERY most of the time and money you are spending to attend:

1) To booth or not to booth
I am attending this industry-standard conference as a vendor. But, NEVER as someone with a booth. Know why? I find it’s a waste of money. If the conference will let me attend as a vendor without a booth, I DO IT! I circulate more. Meet WAY more people. And spend less money. Geez, I hope the conference organizers aren’t reading this 🙂  If I MUST have a booth to attend, I work to get myself on as many panels and invited to as many parties as possible.

2) Pre-conference Prep
I email my entire list of current pipeline prospects and people I haven’t spoken to in quite some time. I ask them, are you attending the such-and-such conference? I will be there and I would LOVE to meet. This accomplishes a few things. 1 – it gives me credibility as someone who is keeping up-to-speed as a thought leader. 2 – it gives me the chance to set up appointments to meet people face-to-face, which allows for some nice efficiencies. 3 – It gives me a reason to be in touch. 4 – it allows me the opportunity to be a resource to my customers who can’t make it to the event – I touch base with  them when I get back about the top 3 things I learned – or with people I’d like to connect them to.

3) Opening the conversation
I used to find this to be the hardest thing to do at a conference. What do I say that won’t annoy the daylights out of someone who is there trying to get educated in their field (and avoid vendors, frankly). Now, it’s easy. I simply ask: “What do you most want to get out of this conference?” or “What is the thing you would say has been most valuable about your time here?” This opens the conversation for what THEY care about. Often, I’m able to serve as a resource with some of their key issues. SCORE! (And they’re glad to talk to me because they are talking about themselves. Critical.)

4) Don’t drink
I leave the alcohol consumption to the celebration of all my new business when I get home. If I am really going to work the conference to its best advantage, I need all the stamina and sharpness I can get. I go to the parties and join in on the fun, but I keep it straight. This is my business, after all.

5) Bring LOTS of business cards, but leave the presentations at home
Conference attendees do NOT want one more thing to drag home with them. I bring plenty of cards, and make sure I get theirs!

6) Carry the Thank You notes and stamps along with me
Yep. The hand written Thank You note again. When I am REALLY on my game, I write the cards out before I go to bed. At least I have them on the plane with me for my ride home. I believe people are impressed that they get something personal from me right away on their return.

7) Set a goal
I set a goal of how many meaningful connections I am going to make at the conference. Connections that could lead to a sale. My goal for this three day conference is 20 meaningful connections. Obviously, I will make many more connections than that, but I’m talking about the ones that will lead directly to further conversations about working together. I hold myself to my goal and I don’t quit until I’ve made it. It’s a great game!

8) Be a stalker
This is only for the VERY accomplished. If I am listening to a keynote or a panelist who is a big deal at their company (my favorites are the Fortune 500 CEOs), this CAN be an ideal time to connect with them. But, I am careful. I MUST have something MEANINGFUL to say that takes about 5 seconds and addresses core issues they just mentioned. I ask them for a CONNECTION at their company, not for THEIR time. These can be magical moments.

9) Love ’em UP!
When I get home, I’m quick to put a bullet-point summary of the value I got from the conference. I send this to all my peeps who I did not see at the conference. I become a thought leader and valuable resource! Then, I connect with all the *meaningful connections* to set future action. I do NOT let this wait until sometime next week. I will take off Tuesday afternoon, as a reward- as long as those communications go out ASAP!

10) Balance the drawer and then we’re out!
I take care of my finances. It’s never fun, but I challenge myself to finish my expense report and turn it in within two business days. No use carrying balances for the work I have done.

Great! I’m ready to rock ‘n roll! What strategies do YOU use to make the most of your conference time? I can’t wait to hear!

Love your peeps UP!

The Irreverent Sales Girl

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