Whether you’re a blogger, entrepreneur or an aspiring executive, professional development is an integral part to growth and achieving business goals. Local meet-ups and Facebook groups have definitely proven to be a great way to network, market your business/brand and build a tribe; yet attending professional conferences are still a must. We recently informed you about 13 Fall Conferences For Female Entrepreneurs. Professional conferences provide access to educational opportunities and potential sponsors and/or clients that can literally be that thing, which takes your business to another level. Yes, conferences can be particularly costly as they may come with traveling expenses and an all-star presenter list that doesn’t come cheap, however, the return on investment can be almost guaranteed!
For me, conferences simply fall into two categories: the specific niche area orbusiness/marketing. Once you’ve made the decision to invest in yourself and your business via attending a professional conference, here are three ways you can rock that conference:
1. Be Prepared
- Do your homework on event sponsors and both speakers and other attendees to optimize the networking experience. Engage in specialty Facebook groups and other online platforms.
- Order in advance and have on hand enough, quality business cards for distribution throughout the conference. Business cards are is still a staple in the networking experience and many will be exchanged throughout the conference therefore; if possible include a picture so people will remember you and annotate something that will remind you of a particular person of interest to follow-up with. (If you’re a procrastinator, have the cards shipped directly to your hotel)
- Preview the conference schedule well in advance and give specific attention to planning that time accordingly. Decide in advance what seminars and/or break-out groups you’d like to attend and actually write down a draft agenda based on your own conference goals. (Be flexible, if your conference picks are not to your liking, feel free to leave and join a seminar that may be running concurrently)
2. Show-Up & Remain Present
- If the nature of your conference does not require that you stay connected, power down from social media and other distractions that may take your attention away from receiving the information you went to obtain. If social media is a part of your business and/or role during the conference, interact with other attendees and speakers during the event using #hashtags on various social media outlets.
- Be authentic to who you are and represent your brand with professionalism in all of your interactions.
- Our smart devises are great however; batteries tend to die and/or Wi-Fi can present as an issue. Always have pen and paper on hand to jot down notes and other key information.
- Introvets can win at conferences along with everyone else. Consider creating actual conversation starters to help ease the anxiety around initiating small talk. You can also wear a piece of clothing or jewelry that can act as a conversation piece. Step outside of your comfort zone and remember that you are there for a purpose.
- Conferences tend to be overwhelming and are information overloads; take breaks as needed and don’t try to attend every event. If certain information doesn’t apply; don’t worry about it, let if fly.
- Identify smaller networking groups while at the conference based on areas of interest to further establish ongoing relationships with.
- During the conference, use down time or evenings to review and/or organize the days notes.
- Within 3-5 days after the conference, follow-up with emails to potential partners, clients mentors, coaches etc.
- Ensure that your website and/or social media pages are accurate and adequately reflect your brand/business.
- Create both short and long term goals for your business with implementation action steps and deadlines, as a result of information learned during the conference.
- For greater success, identify an accountability partner/group to ensure that you are holding yourself to task. Stay connected to other entrepreneurs, bloggers and leaders of like mind.
At a recent conference I attended, keynote speakers Ronnie & Lamar Tyler of Black and Married with Kids informed attendees that; “you cant build an empire on free”. Conferences and other paid mediums that allow you learning opportunities are a wise investment in growing your business/brand and or platform. Leveraging the connections made at conferences could prove to be a huge win. Now go and rock that conference!