Four Ways to Make the Most Out of a Conference

hello nametagIt’s that time of year again when conferences are in full swing. Networking opportunities are robust yet so is the number of people who attend these events vying for face time with sought after speakers and industry experts.

Then, of course, there’s information overload. A lot of information crammed into a small amount of time and oh yes, did we mention an abundance of afternoon sugar-filled snacks? Here are several tips to make the most out of that conference.

1. Be prepared. This means everything from doing your homework on speakers you want to connect with to bringing fruit snacks as an alternative to tempting brownies. Actually, it’s not unlike preparing for a job interview in terms of outlining your questions in advance, plotting which breakout sessions to attend and mapping out the day ahead of time.

Figure out what you want to gain from the conference before stepping foot into that ballroom for the morning keynote. For instance, if it’s a writing conference, are you aiming to connect with a new literary agent? If it’s a work conference, are you looking to find a new vendor for a specific area? Be specific.

Our biggest pet peeve? Connecting with someone only to have them tell you they forgot their business cards at home. Really? Please do not be that guy or gal. You know you’re going to a conference, you should come prepared. No excuses.

2. Dress to impress. No one was ever looked over twice for looking too formal. You’re representing yourself as well as your employer. Although lately conferences have become more lax with the dress code, the adage is true — you’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression.

You don’t have to go over the top. If you’re a graphic designer and it’s pretty common to wear jeans to conferences, sure you’ll want to fit in but why not wear black denim with a sharp looking top and shiny shoes?

3. Take notes. This goes without saying. And it also ties into your primary goals for attending the conference. Whether you jot down notes and tweet while speakers do their presentations or write a key topic of conversation on a new contact’s business card, it’s all good.

4. Focus on quality conversations. If you’ve ever left an event with a stack of business cards and follow ups that didn’t go anywhere, it’s time to change that game plan. Even if you have two quality conversations with two new contacts at the coffee station, these are two potential warm leads that can result in a new business relationship.