Conference season is upon us, and if you haven’t been on top of your game tapping into the valuable resources conferences or industry events have to offer, well, not to worry. You’re in luck. We’re no stranger to attending conferences. We are going to arm you with some battle tips to conquer the conference battlefield.
We attended FLBlogCon in Orlando last month. The brainchild of tech entrepreneur Bess Auer, FLBlogCon is a one-day conference designed to help bloggers in Florida to come together and learn from some of the biggest names in the business. FLBlogCon is the largest blogger conference in Florida. It was an exciting event and a wonderful opportunity to connect with fellow bloggers, especially the new ones to the scene who were brave enough to share their apprehension in attending a conference for the first time.
Speaking with the new attendees got us thinking about our first conference representing Honey and Fox. It’s hard to believe we were in their shoes almost three years ago– nervous to put ourselves out there and somewhat overwhelmed by all the information thrown at us. We spent a great deal of time prepping for the event, but it was our actual attendance that deemed the true value of our efforts. Though we received compliments throughout the day, we also saw missed opportunities. There were lessons to be learned from our mistakes.
Based on our successes and failures, we present you with essential survival tips on making the most out of attending a conference:
#1 – Come with a game plan
Attending a conference is not as simple as just showing up. Showing up is not a game plan! For something as huge as a conference, it’s best to have a game plan set. Once you step foot into the building, you’ll be thrown in hard and fast.
Most conferences have many sessions, tracks, and designated topic areas. Not to mention the people you’ll meet, people you’ll want to meet, as well as brands and industry representatives in attendance. It can start to feel overwhelming. Don’t waste time, you don’t have time to waste.
You should: Go through the schedule!
Most conferences provide a schedule online, in an email or if they are extra fancy through a customized app. Take a look at the schedule, print it out if you have to. By picking sessions in advance, you’ll save yourself time during the conference. Also, research the topics and event speakers beforehand to better prepare yourself for session discussions or conversations with key industry players.
When formulating your plan for attending a conference, ask yourself these questions:
- What are my goals?
- What do I want to learn?
- What do I want to leave here with?
#2 – Coordinate outfits
This is the fun part of attending a conference, at least Fox thinks so. You get to let your style shine and tell your story through fashion. Fox is partial to fox imagery, either on her shirts or strong jewelry pieces. Honey, however, embraces yellow golds with occasional black embellishments. Running from panel discussions to keynotes and everywhere between all day long is exhausting though. Wear what is comfortable for your personal or company brand, as well as what can easily transition from day to night.
Consider the thematic message you want to share, not only on the first impression but also throughout the entire event. How do you want to be remembered? The message you want to project should be consistent.
#3 – Create a Twitter list
It’s time to learn some creeper traits. You’re not the only person attending this event, there are others doing the same. Chances are a good percentage of them will have social profiles. There are even conference websites that allow attendees to list themselves and their profiles. Keep a VIP list of the important people you encounter and actively follow their prefered social media channel.
We like using the lists feature on Twitter, which easily organizes the Twitter accounts you’re following into categories. Create a Twitter list and add these people associated with the event. Use this list to keep track of their tweets during and after the conference. Engage with their tweets and build a relationship.
#4 – Put your business cards to use
The majority of people we exchanged business cards with during the conference appreciatively noted the color, icon design, and texture of our business cards. Our business cards were conversation pieces and helped grow our brand. Business cards are another way to share your message and be remembered. Make it count because you never know where it will end up once it passes into another person’s hands.
So take that person’s business card and get in touch with them that day. Then and there. Get your phone, and guess what you’re going to do after, you’re going to create a list on Twitter and add all of those people. Follow them instantly and let them know.
#5 – Grab only the swag that you need
Grab the swag that you need so you don’t bring home clutter. It’s okay to be selective. We got a lot of free stuff at the conference from pens and water bottles to buttons and T-shirts. It’s all fun and games until we bring the swag home, sort through a lot of useless junk, then come to realize we now have more swag shirts to add to our endless shirt collection and several packets of dishwash cleaner for an appliance neither of us has.
#6 – Pack a bag of necessities
If you’re planning to be at a conference, especially for a prolong period of time, we suggest you arm yourself with some gear.
Here’s a list of essentials you can choose from:
- Writing utensil
- Charger (Wall and Portable)
- Laptop and charger or tablet
- Water bottle
- Mini first aid kit (bandages, disinfectant etc. for the accident prone *Fingers pointing at Honey*)
- Extra Shirt (This for those of us that are messy or jinx. The shirt can be left in the car *Fingers pointing at Fox*)
Please note some conferences do give away swag bags, snacks and water.
#7 – Have a partner in crime
Okay seriously these events are so much more easier if you have a partner in crime. Having a partner to split up game plan tasks with frees up your time to actually have a good time at the conference; you’re not overextending yourself. One of you could be jotting short notes on important talks while the other could be making new connections. Later you could regroup and touch base on what either of you covered.
You are put at ease with a supportive partner. She is there to back you up, give you a confidence boost if needed.
#8 – Be active on social media
As you’re giving out business cards, meeting new people and putting yourself out there, people are going to scope you out. Consider your current following and those new creepers, show that your platforms have a pulse even though you’re going to be busy attending a conference. Have posts scheduled prior, but be sure to check out the conference’s hashtag.
Offer some insight during your attendance. Put your notes to good use. Utilize the live features on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
#9 – Network, just do it
Interacting with new people can be awkward af. It’s comforting to stick with your partner in crime the whole time, yet you hinder the chance to connect with a diverse group of thought leaders. Break out of your comfort zone by just simply doing it. Rip it off like a Band-Aid. You never know what role that person will play in your personal or professional life.
Remember the research you did prior to the conference? Strike up a conversation with the person next to you. Break the ice with those notes. Or ask a question during a panel discussion. Need help? Practice with your partner in crime.
#10 – Give Yourself Turtle Time
*Honey stares blankly at Fox like wtf.*
Turtle time is what camp counselors, or at least when Fox was a camp counselor, refer to as downtime for campers. With all the information you’re absorbing and killing it with your game plan, you need to set aside some downtime for yourself, to recharge. Take a few breaks. Eat and hydrate. Whether it’s in the lobby of the conference hall or outside in the venue’s courtyard, let yourself breathe so you don’t get overwhelmed.
#11 – Have fun
Most of all, enjoy yourself. You may or may not have paid for this, but you showed up to the conference for a reason. Conferences are a great way to grow personally and professionally. The experience should be worthwhile. Why waste time on something that makes you unhappy or bored out of your mind?
Have any tips on attending a conference you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!