With live events back on the agenda in Aotearoa, the pros who have seen it all put together 15 tips for conferences. 

Conferences were always one of these things that appeared on the agenda a few times a year. Love them or loath them, they are a great opportunity to network and polish your know-how/expertise/market value/credentials/….

At least… they used to be. 

Until they weren’t.

BUT things are turning!

With live events back on the agenda (albeit with a sensible just-in-case plan for the time being), it’s time to strap your conference boots back on. 

If things feel a little rusty, you’re not alone.  

To help you out, the pros who have seen it all (that is us) put together 15 useful tips to get you back into the conference game. 

Attending a Conference? – First Things First

Conference Networking is just networking…  or is it?

Before anything else, have a good think about what it is you want to get out of the event. Most of the time, people will say ‘networking’. But that’s pretty broad. Is it a certain person you want to meet? Are you trying to get on the radar of potential new clients? Maybe you’re putting your feelers out to change horizons? Whatever it is, being clear about it gives you focus in a situation that is bound to be… ‘sensory stimulating’. A-hum!

Who will attend the conference?

You may not be able to get the list of attendees in advance, but the internet offers a treasure trove of information. The conference hashtag on LinkedIn for instance is the ‘Open Sesame’ of 2021. Use it.

Do the prep 

If you have certain people you want to meet on your radar, read up on what has kept them busy lately. Yep, LinkedIn again. But also Facebook and good old Aunty Google.

Get ready to schmooze

The networking side of events doesn’t come easy to everybody. If that’s you, prepare your ‘Elevator Pitch’ to make sure you’re ready when you’re asked what you do.

I’m Johnny from The Firm;  followed by a brief description of what customer problem you are solving, and why you do it. It never hurts to throw in a few numbers either. Everybody likes numbers.

Work out your conference agenda 

Decide on the sessions you want to attend beforehand, not on the spot. It’s the best way to avoid missing out on the must-sees. Some speakers will be a straightforward ‘yay’ or ‘nay’. But for the other ones, YouTube may give you the answer you’re looking for.

Business cards Anno 2021

Download the event app before the event. Update your profile and put some thought in it. It’s today’s business card. I repeat, It’s today’s business card!

Acing the Conference Game

Avoid the morning scramble

You may not like to hear it, but the early bird catches the worm. In other words, arrive early-ish. If an event starts at 9am, as sure as an egg is an egg, most people turn up at 8.45am. Our tip? Beat the lines, aim for a 30mins pre-start time and sip your coffee in peace while the rest of the bunch get busy scrambling over each other.

Beat the internet hick-ups 

Screenshot your agenda on your phone. If the internet dies (Argh! The horror of it!) you have a backup of your customised agenda.

Pick the best seat at the conference venue

You’d be surprised to hear the best seats in the house are often empty! Yep, the front often has the best view and the best sound. As a bonus, the chance is good you’ll be noticed by the speaker (networking again…). Unless of course you’re not sure if the session is right for you. In that case, the back seat offers an easy bail-out. Oh, and…you also want to avoid the air-con vent.

Bring your own coffee cup

Coffee carts are pretty standard these days. Unfortunately, sustainable cups aren’t a ‘luxury’ many events can afford. So be eco-friendly and flaunt the BYO cup. It’s a good conversation starter too.

Scan that code 

We’re incredibly lucky to have live events in Aotearoa. But this COVID-business ain’t over till it’s over. Until we’re well and truly out of the woods, it’s important to keep each other safe and… scan the government’s official QR code! It’s mandatory in level 2 (or an alternative to it) and good practice during level 1.

Attending a conference = Out of office

Attending a conference is an investment in your future. Both the people you meet and the new things you will learn will be the stepping stones (big and small) to the next step in your career. What we’re trying to say is… conferences deserve your full attention. The last thing you want is being distracted by routine emails or interrupted by phone calls from people who don’t realise you’re ‘out of office’. Allow the conference to be the opportunity you want it to be and take a break from your phone and email.

Connect, connect, connect

Aim to make at least 5 new connections. Find out if sessions are recorded. If so, you may choose to skip some in favour of an interesting conversation. Apart from that, sit at a table with strangers, chat to someone new in the line for coffee, make connections on the App by posting in the newsfeed. Some of the best connections are made during the after-party. Just saying… 😉

There’s no time like now 

Take actionable notes on the spot, so that after the event, all you have to do is run through the list to make the change.  If you don’t have pen and paper the Event App should have function for you to take notes on the session.

Hatching the Conference Egg

The final tip for conferences 

To achieve success, you have to capitalise on the opportunities. That time has come. You know that stack of business cards you are now logging with you in your pocket? They go stale pretty quickly. Go through them immediately after the event and send out emails, connect on LinkedIn and pick up the phone.

With all that said and done, it just leaves us to point out that while we’re back doing live events, we wouldn’t want to leave things up to chance when it comes to safety. We’re still navigating evolving COVID-19 times and the industry is continuing to work cohesively under the NZ Event Sector Voluntary Code.

Now go and enjoy the newly appreciated act of mingling, acquiring and enhancing with our 15 tips for conferences!

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