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two business people on a table, exchanging their contact information, how to prepare for conferences and conventionsIt is the time of year to start planning and preparing for next year’s conferences and conventions. Adequate preparation before attending a conference or convention can help you get the most out of your budget. Preparation, organization, and flexibility are crucial to the successful use of your time.

Attending conferences and conventions requires an investment of time, money, and energy making it important to prepare before you attend.

Why attend conferences and conventions?

Conferences and conventions are absolutely essential to networking, intellectual growth, and professional development. They give you an opportunity to meet your heroes, potential investors, and future clients and customers.   It is a great opportunity to check out competitors, meet with current clients and customers, and generate new sales leads. The events are usually set in a venue that invites you to interact with other executives in an informal setting.

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ~ Anais Nin

What to prepare weeks before the conference or convention

Research the conference.

Most events have their own Facebook page and Twitter account.  Follow them and the event hashtag to get updated information.

Check out the  photo’s posted on the event’s social media accounts shot from prior years conventions.  This will give you an idea of what type of clothing the attendees were wearing. You’ll feel much more comfortable upon your arrival knowing you fit with other attendees.

Pre-Register.

None of us are made of money and pre-registering will save you the $$$. Most conferences and conventions also offer a “promo code” that you can enter to get a further discount.  They are usually given out to the events presenters, speakers, and exhibitors. Ask around on social media if a “code” is available.

When you register for an event, most organizers will send you a list of attendees.  Study the list and make your list of executive you would like to meet.

Research the attendees.

Review their LinkedIn account.  Sometimes I will even send a “request to connect” before the conference letting them know I will be attending. I also do this with the speakers, letting them know I look forward to hearing their presentation.

Know your hotel surroundings, streets, and buildings.

Know the convention center surroundings, streets, public transport.

What to pack for conferences or conventions

Check out the photo’s posted on the event’s social media accounts shot from prior years conventions.

Again, by reviewing previous convention photo’s, you’ll know whether to pack, as a woman, slacks, pant suits, or dresses,  For men, you’ll know whether it is a jeans or suit and tie event. You will feel more comfortable upon your arrival.  I find the indoor temperatures can vary at each event center. You could be in for steaming hot to freezing, so layering works best.

Some attendees like to wear something memorable. A scarf or pin or unique jacket making it easier for others to spot them later on.

For conventions, you will be walking miles in the big convention halls.   Please bring comfortable shoes. Preferably with Dr. Scholl’s inserts.  At conferences, you are mostly sitting at tables or in a meeting hall on folding chairs, so dress comfortably.

Business cards.

I cannot tell you how many times i have had executives run out of cards and end up writing their info on a napkin. Be professional and bring more than enough business cards.  The latest trend is business cards with a photo of you.  This way, when you follow-up, they can associate a name with a picture of you.  You should also have a digital business card. Millennials are all using them and it is the future.

Elevator pitch.

Prepare a concise 30-second overview of your company.  Practice with video on your smartphone. You want your new acquaintances to remember your company and, subsequently, ask more questions.

Branded promotional items.

Not promoting yourself goes against the grain of all marketing and sales concepts! If you don’t promote, how will others know what you have to offer? And how can you ensure they will remember you? Promotional products are one of the most effective self-promotion tools. Self-promotion can be one of the more difficult tasks as a professional, promotional products can make it easier to spread the word. Only bring these if they are cool and useful.
While the number one reason people keep promotional products is usefulness, the number two reason is attractiveness so bring something of value and stay away from using cheap freebies.

Food.

At conferences, your lunch is usually provided along with snacks and refreshments at morning and afternoon breaks. Conventions are another story. Buying food at a convention is ridiculously expensive.  Bring protein bars, granola bars, fruit, and crackers. Most importantly, bring a  bottle of water!!!

Other items to pack include an extra cell phone battery and phone charger. Bring a power cord.  If you want to be a hero at break or lunch time, bring a power strip. You will attract new friends.   The number of electrical outlets are limited.  Mints and lip balm are also suggested.

As for note taking, most still rely on the pen and paper routine. Make sure your pen works and you have a sturdy notepad to write on. I am slowly starting to use digital note taking as my main writing tool.  The app’s Evernote and Google Keep are awesome.  Both are free and available for iOS and Android. Download them and try them out before going to your conference or convention.

Get the conference hashtag to follow before and during the conference for the latest conference and convention updates.

If you plan on leaving early during any of the conference sessions, it is wise to sit in the back. It makes it easier to leave without annoying people or the speaker.

Conclusion

Conferences and conventions are about connecting with other executives in your industry.  Meeting potential new clients and customers.  If you are a startup or small business, attending conferences will also give you access to larger potential customers.  All are there to have a good time, learn, and make new connections. So relax, smile, have a positive attitude and enjoy the experience.

That’s it! Ready for your trip?

I hope you are. Because I’d love to hear about your experience.You can learn more about how to network successfully at events here and how to follow up successfully after networking at events and tradeshows.

Please share “How to prepare for conferences and conventions” with your fellow attendees so they too can prepare for a successful event.

Best of networking luck from the Sozial Monster Team. If you want to learn more about how our team can help you grow your business, please schedule a FREE 30-minute Skype call with us.

Oh, if there’s anything I’m missing in this article, tell me! I’ll be happy to add it in.

We welcome your thoughts and suggestions on this article and networking in the comments section.

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