Opting to attend a business conference can be a significant turning point in your career — as long as you arrive thoroughly prepared and with a plan of action for making the most of your time there. In other words, it can be an incredibly productive time as long as you have given it some thought beforehand.
During business conferences, you have the chance to interact with various people in your industry, be motivated by innovative approaches, learn more about future steps you can take in your business, and obtain replenished motivation to continue growing.
However, if you don’t prepare, you are going to waste time figuring out where to be, who to speak with, and how you are going to network. This wasted time is precious, as you should be using it to enhance your experience.
So, to ensure that you can make the most of your time at your next conference and gain as much value as possible, read on for four brilliant ways to prepare for a business conference.
1. Plan your schedule
As soon as the conference’s schedule is released, spend some time going through the program and making a list of the events, speakers, workshops, and other activities that you would like to attend. Once you have starred the ones that sound the most interesting and are the most relevant, then you can make a plan of action to ensure you hear, see, and do as much as possible.
Additionally, look through the list of attendees and companies that are participating in the conference and compile a “networking list” of people with whom you want to connect.
Designing your own conference schedule allows you to maximize your time because you know who you want to meet, which workshops will bring you the most value, and when you have free time.
If you are traveling to a conference, see if you can take at least one extra day to explore the locale. If you do, also make an itinerary in advance, so you know what there is to do. One of the benefits of opting to go to conferences in Dubai and other areas around the globe is that work and play can easily be integrated.
In other words, be prepared in advance, so you don’t waste any time while you are there.
2. Get your marketing materials in order
Generally, one of the main purposes of signing up for a business conference is to network with others in your industry and market your own company. For this reason, it is essential that you have your marketing materials in order before you arrive.
Business cards are a must, but professional brochures, flyers, or some other form of marketing material may also be worth bringing. Physical branding products are still critical when networking in person as they give you a chance to be creative (and therefore memorable) during a first meeting.
Your physical marketing material needs to have all the necessary information, such as your contact information and a brief statement regarding what your brand represents. And make sure that all the information is accurate and up-to-date.
3. Prepare to participate
There is no point going to a business conference if you are not prepared to engage. This means meeting new people and increasing the breadth of your network with people, as well as paying a visit to exhibitors and engaging with them.
It also means asking questions during sessions and workshops and introducing yourself to speakers and presenters afterwards.
If you are nervous about networking or starting up a conversation, then take some time to write down questions and conversation starters that you can ponder on before the networking functions, receptions or workshops.
Participation also translates to you pitching yourself. For this to go successfully, practice your elevator pitch. That is a clear and concise message that explains your business enough for the other person to want to know more.
4. Put some thought into packing
Usually, you will find yourself traveling to a business conference, which means you will need to pack a bag. Even for the most frequent traveler, packing can feel like its own overwhelming beast — especially for professional work trips like conferences.
After all, you need to look presentable (so no sweatpants), but you also want to be comfortable as conference days are long. Furthermore, you want to present yourself with a professional image, as well as feel confident in what you are wearing so that you can win over everyone you network with.
Therefore, forget about anything too casual and, instead, dress like you’re still at work. Most importantly, bring a pair of shoes that you can stand and walk in all day long.
Make a packing checklist a few days before you leave, listing out the clothing items, technology pieces, toiletries, and other miscellaneous items that you will be needing — that way, you can remain calm knowing that you have everything with you to make it the best business conference ever.
These four tips have focused on what to do before the conference, but it is just as important to keep the communication going after the conclusion of the conference.
Within a week of it ending, you must send follow-up emails or phone calls to those that you had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with. Do what you can to keep these relationships evolving.
Additionally, look to continue increasing your knowledge and skills by looking at other related conferences, as well as courses, such as a strategic thinking training course.
The work doesn’t stop when the first conference does! Instead, commit to networking, learning, and growing your business for a long time to come.
With over 20 years of experience in B2B marketing, Annick Nuyens first worked in the hospitality service industry and then moved to the knowledge industry. She currently works for Informa in the Dubai office, where she oversees marketing for public and inhouse training courses, conferences, exhibitions and managed events across the Middle East and Africa.