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5 Keys to Making the Absolute Most of a Business Conference

May 17, 2010

There are lots of business conferences every year and people spend good money to attend them; but how many people actually put what they learn into action?  Not many.  We all go to conferences with good intentions but intentions don’t build businesses or put money in the bank.  Effective action does.  Here are my five top tips for making the absolute most of a business conference:

  1. Decide which of your specific business objectives for the year could be boosted by attending the conference and work the event accordingly: There will never be a shortage of business people or business events so you could go to them everyday, every week and every year for the rest of your life.  Being in attendance isn’t the same as being productive so set yourself up to take meaningful action while at the conference, and afterward, by deciding which of your specific business goals for the year will be boosted by attending.  For example, if you are generating revenues in your business but want to grow your market share, you might attend the conference looking to attend the breakout sessions that cover business financing and venture capital for expansion; and be very focused on leaving with a list of resources and contacts that could propel you toward the accomplishment of that goal.
  2. Network with other conference attendees—but go for substance, not numbers: “Networking” has to be the number one buzzword in business; but do it strategically! Networking is good.  Connecting is better.  And building relationships is priceless.  Having 20 or 30 business cards following a conference doesn’t mean much if you can’t make meaningful contact and build a relationship over time with the individuals whose cards you have; and blasting e-mails to people you have added to your list because you snagged their card doesn’t constitute true connecting and relating.  So, I advise getting cards from everyone but really truly conversing, connecting and relating with three to five people at the conference who specifically link to the strategic business outcome you wish to achieve (see number 1).  Also, you can realistically follow up with, stay in touch with and offer help to three to five people long after the conference is over—more than this is unrealistic and overwhelming.  Really staying in touch and adding value is how lucrative business relationships are established and maintained over time.
  3. Connect with others on social media on the spot: You know how it is.  Finding someone on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn after a conference can take weeks or months, if you ever do it, once you get back home and back on the grind.  If the person is compelling enough to get to the point of discussing whether they are on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media platforms, then it makes sense to connect with them on social media while you are there at the conference.  If you don’t connect at the conference, better late than never—but never is much more likely if you don’t do it on the spot.
  4. Introduce yourself to press: Most people clamor to meet speakers and conference presenters and that’s good but there are often members of the media at business conferences and not many people bother to introduce themselves.  Ask conference organizers if media professionals are present and introduce yourself.  Have a short conversation with the reporter to find out more about their beat and how they like to be pitched.  It might not result in immediate coverage but it could eventually.  Take the opportunity to plant a seed while you can speak to the reporter face-to-face.
  5. Follow the 2-2-2 rule with the top three contacts you make at the conference: Follow up with your top three contacts from the conference within two days of the conference close to say hello, nice meeting you, let’s stay in touch.  Follow up again two weeks later to e-mail something useful, like an interesting article, audio program or—even better—a lead!  And let your new contact know you are there to help if they ever need anything.  Follow up again within two months, and every two months thereafter, to check in and maintain contact.

Invest your time and money spent on a business conference wisely by maximizing your ROI (return on investment) with these five tips. I have used them and they work.

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