I’m off to Barcelona at the weekend as I am part of a panel debate at the PMI Global Congress in Spain next week. My session is on collaboration tools and tech for project managers.
Today I’ve got 5 tips (and a personal favourite bonus one at the end) about how to get the most out of attending a conference. You make a big investment in going to conferences so it helps to do a bit of thinking and planning about how to benefit while you’re there.
1. Wear Your Name Badge
Make it easy for people to start a conversation with you. Wear your name badge with pride. Women, wear a neckline that’s appropriate for people looking at your chest all day if it’s the type of badge that pins on.
If your badge is on a lanyard consider tying a knot in it to make it shorter so it doesn’t dangle round your middle. That’s a tip for short people like me 🙂
2. Edit Your Badge
It’s OK to take your badge out of its plastic holder and write something on it. I have added my Twitter handle (@pm4girls) to many a conference badge. If the details on your badge are pretty meaningless, add something else, like your department.
Write big and clear. The point of displaying your name badge is to make it easy for people to start chatting, and for them to see if they have anything in common with you. Much of the benefit of conferences is in the informal networking.
3. Give Out Your Business Cards With Care
You’ve packed your business cards, so use them. But don’t force them on people. My rule is that if someone asks for my contact details then I will give them a card.
I don’t offer them routinely to people I meet in the lunch queue because I know that if it was me I wouldn’t want to receive them.
Have your phone available too so you can snap a picture of their name badge and then look them up later to connect on LinkedIn.
The next tip has saved me many times and helped me deliver on my promises!
4. Annotate The Cards You Receive
Memory jog: Write what you talked about and what the person looked like on the back of their business card.
Jot down what you talked about and what the person looked like on the back of their card so you remember.
Also write down anything you said you would do for them. This is really important if you want to build credibility with your new contact, so if you said you’d send them a link to the article you talked about, then write down your promise on their card and follow up when you’re home.
5. Work Through Your Hit List
You should have made a list of the exhibitors you want to see before you left home. It saves you valuable time when you arrive, especially if the exhibition floor is large. Now’s the time to go and visit the stands of the companies you have highlighted.
First check that they have actually turned up. I normally do a sweeping tour of the exhibition hall to see who is there, then I can plan who to go back to. Use the floor plan in your conference programme to tick off the stands you have visited.
If you’ve arranged to meet anyone at the conference, tweet or text them to let them know that you’ve made it and to confirm details. I have sent someone a selfie before so that they knew who they were looking for – event rooms can be quite crowded so make it as easy as possible for someone to find you.
Bonus Tip: Bail Out of Dull Presentations
You’ve chosen your sessions and you’re sitting in a presentation. The speaker begins and… you realise that this is nothing like you expected. It’s not pitched at the right level for you. You aren’t going to learn anything. Or the speaker is talking about something really interesting but in a delivery style that is going to have you asleep in the next 5 minutes.
Get up. Walk out. Speakers are used to it and won’t take offence. You’ve made the investment to come to a conference and you owe it to yourself to get the most out of your experience. That doesn’t include sitting through talks that aren’t your thing.
Find another speaker in another room and sneak in at the back!
I used to find it really awkward to go to conferences, but over time I’ve picked up some tricks and tips that make it much easier. If you struggle to network at events, I can help. My ebook, Better Networking Skills, is a straightforward, easy-to-implement guide to being a more confident networker.
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