Let’s be honest. Conferences are expensive. Very expensive – Registration fees, airfare, auto rental, food – and maybe most of all your time and associated opportunity costs. The list goes on.
How much business comes from a conference won’t be known until months down the road, but you can make sure you get the most out of the event with the following tips.
1. Take Notes (It’s obvious. You know it and still don’t do it.)
Some people call it paralysis by analysis. Conferences are packed full of content and you’re meeting new people. It’s easy to overlook the fact that you’ll forget most of what you learn before the day is over.
Smart phones make this easy. Use the notes function on your phone or download an app like Evernote that makes taking notes and sharing them across devices very easy.
2. Don’t Make Every Conversation & Presentation a Page of Notes
If you are there to learn, write down 1-3 takeaways from each presentation or conversation.
Seriously. For a lot of people, this is why they don’t take notes. It’s overwhelming and it shouldn’t be. If it’s more than you can read in a glance, it is too much.
If you are there to meet business contacts, get their business card and write 1-3 things about your conversation on the back of it.
It’s amazing how a lead can seem hot at a conference and a few days later you don’t even remember their face….err, or they yours.
In your notes, star or highlight the most important things you don’t want to miss a week later (your top 10%).
3. Create a Plan & Don’t Follow It
It sounds crazy, but most conferences have a structure you should plan around. With that, the conversations in the coffee line or at lunch are often the best.
When you see people wearing a company logo or standing at a company booth you are interested in, introduce yourself. Serendipitous, unplanned meetings are one of the often missed benefits of a conference. Miss the next presentation if the person is a potential business contact.
- Quality contacts will last longer and be more valuable than any piece of information learned in one of the presentations
- Go to the breakout rooms after the presentations you’re most interested in. It’s a less intimidating setting for the presenter and is where they will let down their guard. The result is you get real answers and not prepared remarks (the company line).
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4. Follow Up With Contacts In Real Time
Use an app like LinkedIn’s CardMunch to take a picture of business cards and have information automatically imported into your contact list. You can add the person as a LinkedIn contact straight from the app.
Send a follow up email when you are on a break or when you get to the hotel. If you don’t, the statistics indicate you won’t.
5. Use Social Media At The Conference
I’m not a natural at social media, so don’t expect anything revolutionary from me. What I can say is that the world is on social media and the oil & gas industry is too.
Let me repeat that another way. YOU are on Facebook and use social media in some capacity, so it’s not just people that have too much time on their hands.
I’ve seen everything from small transactions to major business leads come through the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. These connections are happening every day.
My top three “getting started” social media tips are:
- Use LinkedIn and Facebook status updates to tell professional contacts and friends you are going to a conference. You’ll be surprised. Someone you went to high school or college with is in the oil & gas industry and will comment.
- Use Twitter to get real time updates at the conference. The event sponsor and many of the attendees will use Twitter while they are there. There is no reason you shouldn’t learn from them in real time.
- If you’re naturally social (a salesperson) or you handle marketing for your company, you should be using social media at the conference. Share photos, details about events you are involved in, and interact with the other people at the conference.
We hope the tips above make your next conference the most valuable to date. If you have more ideas, please share them in the comments below.
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