How to make most out of a business conference?

Published on: 12th April 2016
If you’re in the world of Business, you surely must have heard of the 80-20 rule. This rule is so popular that even Hollywood icon Woody Allen has been quoted as saying – “80% of success is showing up.” So in the context of attending a business conference: yes, you do need to actually show up in order to succeed; and no, merely showing up isn’t all there is to it.

However, by attending a conference, you’ve covered 80% of the ground. How you strategize the remaining 20% can go a long way in defining the value you gain from the conference. So what exactly is this 20% you need to pay attention to? Read on to know more.
Get your money’s worth

Conferences usually charge a certain amount for registration or participation, usually related to the kind of speakers who present and discuss various topics in a panel. A considerable amount of time and effort goes into organizing conference sessions around the relevant and interesting topics, which usually means that as an attendee, you gain a lot of valuable insights by just being a part of the audience.

Participating in these sessions is another direct way of gaining both knowledge and visibility in a high-profile conference. So while you might have been prepping to network like a pro at the conference, don’t neglect the fact that the sessions are your chance to stay at the cutting edge of industry trends related to your line of business. Remember, the cost of attending a conference is profitable based on your action, whether in terms of learning something new or meeting the right people.

Actually learn something

Managing your time wisely and choosing the right sessions for you to attend is crucial to your agenda. It’s not necessary to sit for every single session, especially when you also want to be interacting with people and making significant connections.

However, it is important that you actually learn from the sessions you’re attending. Never hesitate to ask questions and always take notes.

Your learning does not have to stop at the session’s content: use the session to observe how the speaker is presenting and pick up on a few good tips to hone your own presentation skills.

Another way to learn is to discuss the sessions with other people. Coming across new opinions can help broaden your perspective and shed light on some of the points you may have missed out on.

People are not just their Qualifications, or their LinkedIn profiles

If the thought of socialising in between sessions and during lunch/tea breaks unnerves you, all you need to keep in mind is that everyone present at the conference is looking to expand their network as well.

Once you realize this, you’ll feel more inclined to take initiative and create networking situations where you would be more comfortable with the prospect of talking to someone.

So you’ve definitely done your homework and come prepared to the event, armed with a pre-determined list of who you would like to interact with in particular.

You’ve gone through website information, LinkedIn profiles of these accomplished individuals and you feel like you know everything there is to know about them. Charged with a sense of purpose, you might just fail to realize that there is more to a person than his/her huge list of qualifications and impressively credential-heavy LinkedIn profile.

A number successful of people probably have the most interesting hobbies as well, and have their work-life balance figured out. Your conversations with these people do not always have to be only about business; it gets tedious to constantly have to talk shop.

If you find yourself in conversation with someone during one of the many social events organized at a conference, try finding out a bit more about the person’s interests. Chances are, you probably like playing the same sport. This gives you an opportunity to connect with the person further and open doors to doing business together in the future by inviting the person for a round of golf or a quick tennis game.

The idea is to accomplish something worthwhile, but it doesn’t have to go perfectly

When you show up on conference day, your game plan should ideally involve breaking up the entire conference into broad categories such as:

Education and Training: Your education and training involves researching beforehand, taking notes, asking questions and even attending skill training workshops if they’re available. You will also ideally be vigilant in meeting the people you intended to meet, people you look up to and will learn a lot from.

Breaks: With the session breaks and other social networking events slotted into the day, you’ll be dressed your best, monitoring your words and just generally marketing yourself in the best way possible to your conference peers. Your business cards ready, you should make sure your conversations are humble, concise and to the point.

Informal/Relaxation Time: After the formalities are over, you can finally relax. Now’s an appropriate time to bring out your phone; take a picture or two if you must; get onto social media and share your excitement about the day; be at ease. You’re only human

Just remember that you might not have connected with everyone, you might have missed a session you would have loved to attend and might not have spoken the most perfect sentences. But you’re only human, not a programmed machine.

Push any disappointments aside and focus on following up after the event: who you would like to continue conversations with, what new information you would like to either share with colleagues back at your company or implement in your work routine.

After all, you did make it worth your while. And if you’ve done that, you’ll have made the most out of a business conference, where you had the opportunity to grow and learn on both a professional and a personal level.

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