Going to business conferences has the ability to not only augment your status professionally but also impart new things and build relationships with people with mutual interests. It’s rather rare for you get the chance to step away from the office and listen to expert thought leaders or form new connections that can benefit you in your business endeavours. But how do you know you're getting the most out of your experience?
If you have an upcoming business conference marked on your calendar, here are some ways to maximize the experience:
Set your goals
Determine what excites you about this particular conference. Why are you going? Who do you wish to meet? Consider what you'd like to gain from the whole event. Make a list of goals you'd like to achieve throughout the experience, like having a conversation with one of the keynote speakers or getting the contact information of at least 10 individuals. You have to be able to say after the event that you’ve checked off most if not all your goals.
Prepare questions, and do ask them!
Come up with a list of questions you'd like to discuss with other professionals in and outside your current network. They could even be questions you've asked previously but would like different perspectives on. Meet with your team about what they'd like to ask about as well. What questions do they have? Could they be added to your own list? Try to think about the kind of information you want to gain that you can use to your advantage.
Rehearse your elevator pitch — you will need it every now and then
Not a lot of people fancy small talk, but sometimes you have to do it. An elevator pitch is a professional form of small talk in which you introduce yourself, explain what you do, and give a little bit of your background. To keep things interesting, you'll have to practice how to do that. Focus on your strongest qualities and what skills you provide. Make sure to keep it short and sweet.
Focus on growing your network
When given the opportunity, try to speak with as many people as you can. Take detailed notes on topics that interest you, new ideas or concepts, and things you'd like to further discuss with your team. Share those notes with others and offer to swap what you have. Networking is what will benefit you more than any other aspect of a conference. Don't be hesitant to introduce yourself to new people; they're doing the same thing.
Follow up after the event
Don't let the connections you made and all that elevator-pitching go to waste. Follow up with your contacts, but gently. You don't want to come off as overbearing or desperate for a business connection.
Whether you swapped emails, social media or business cards, make use of what you have to initiate a professional yet friendly conversation. Make it your objective to establish a connection that will last. Listen to what they have to say, and don't be too forceful in how you approach them.
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