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15 Step Guide For Attending Conferences

15 Step Guide For Attending Conferences

Are you all conferenced-out? Read Dr Corrie Block’s 15-step guide to making friends, saving time and winning deals at your next event.

I know how frustrating it can be to send an employee to a conference, to output those expenses, and to receive in return only a ten minute brief about what they can’t remember and didn’t learn.

I also know what it’s like to attend conferences, often on behalf of my clients, and see many of the delegates showing up late or not attending at all. I wonder why good managers would tolerate such poor expenditure.

A trade or industry conference can be a powerful investment tool for your business. Information is power after all. So whether you are attending yourself or sending someone, here are a few tips from a seasoned professional for how to get the most out of your conference:

1. Sleep and Water: These are the keys to keeping your mind and body sharp, especially if you’re experiencing jetlag. They are simple and powerful resources.

2. Go Early: It’s rare for me to attend a conference, especially in the East, that starts on time. That’s why I show up 20 minutes early. Industry leaders are there already, the presenters are there too, and most of the delegates are not. I usually end up having coffee with a leader or presenter this way, and this has often provided key industry insight that I would have missed otherwise. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve collected insider bytes of information this way, and they’ve become the keys to unlocking new markets or product differentiation strategies.

3. Take Notes: You are not going to remember all of the important parts. Arrange your notes by date and session, and require any sent employees to submit them upon return. Notes are information from the sessions that have been filtered through your company’s ear. They are golden information for you.

4. Business Cards: Keep yours in your right pocket and collect others in your left. That way, when someone reaches out to shake your hand you can easily have a card in it already. At the end of each day, review your card stack and sort them into people you will contact, and cards you will throw away. Don’t keep every card! You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to remember why you did. Write emails immediately to those you keep, to get contact going from your side.

5. To Do List: Start a running list of things to do when you get back to the office. You won’t remember if you don’t write them all down. You can knock the items off the list when you get back to your desk.

6. Hunt Hedgehogs: This is a reference to the Good to Great concept of Jim Collins. Look for those things that perhaps your company could do better than anyone else at the conference. Look for your niche. Make notes about what you think could be your next unique strategic business move. Don’t ask where you company fits into the industry, but what in the industry is missing that your company is uniquely positioned to provide.

7. Caffeine and Melatonin: Caffeine will help you stay alert during the boring stuff, and Melatonin will help you get to sleep at the end of the day. They are both safe and commonly available, but don’t take too much of either, and don’t take them at the wrong times.

8. Intentional 1 on 1’s: Choose the council members, speakers, or industry leaders you would like to sit down with and chase them down. Even though their time is tight, they are often more available to meet with you at the conference than they would be from their own desks. This is especially important if you’ve travelled or they have. If you don’t live in the same city, this conference might be your only opportunity for a year to meet face to face.

9. Win Friends: Dale Carnegie wrote that the key to influence is to: smile, remember peoples’ names, and treat people correctly. Friends are more likely to help you or give you a preferable price quote. When you greet someone for the second time, make sure to use their name and repeat your own. All delegates, speakers, and industry leaders are human, concentrate on connection and the business will take care of itself.

10. Control Yourself: Watch your behaviour outside of the conference. Industry leaders judge the trustworthiness and character of others by how they behave inside and outside the conference rooms. If you party too hard and make an idiot of yourself after hours, you could lose the sale or strategic relationship you were looking for.

11. Steward Your Time: If you can do it later from your office, don’t do it at the conference. Use your time well, spend as much time as you can with industry partners, competitors, and potential suppliers or clients.

12. Dress Well: You want everyone talking to you to believe that you are the decision maker, even if you aren’t (yet!). When you dress well you also put others at ease and they feel they can be more open with you. You’ll get higher quality information this way.

13. Mute Your Phone: It is incredibly disrespectful when your phone rings after there has been a public request made to silence your phone. Take the call if you must, but take it outside, and don’t ever let anyone hear your ringtone.

14. Skip Strategically: If you are going to cut out on a session, forum, or input opportunity, make sure you do it strategically. Be sure that the input will be of marginal use to you and your company, and use that time to connect with someone strategic, not to catch-up on your email.

15. Write a Report: After the conference, write a short record of what you learned, key talking points for the future, key contacts, and strategic ideas you might have had. You won’t remember everything. In fact, this article came from conference notes that I wrote down six months ago! You never know when it will come in handy.


Dr. Corrie Block is a regional business development consultant based in Dubai. He is a Member of the UK Institute of Consulting, holds a Masters in Leadership, a PhD in Arab and Islamic Studies, and is presently completing his Doctorate in Business Administration.

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