Now that the world is getting back to regular business, in-person conferences are back in motion. Furthering your education regarding your creative business is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself. But getting back to meeting in person can feel daunting after such a long hiatus. Here are my 5 tips for attending conferences and seeing the greatest benefits of the conferences you choose to go to in the coming year.
Conference Tip #1 – Choose The Right Conference
To get the greatest benefits from the conferences you attend, you must attend the right ones for your business.
There are so many conference opportunities out there, there is no way you can attend them all, and you wouldn’t want to. The cost and stress of travel can quickly drain your energy if you try to do too much at once. (Ask me how I know this.)
Instead, be strategic about which conferences you invest in.
Things to Consider:
Check reviews online, look at who else is attending, peruse the speaker lists and pay special attention to the attendance of respected experts in your industry. The best conferences can often afford to pay for more reputable speakers, but they also tend to charge more for tickets.
Also, consider how much you are willing and able to spend on the event. Factor in the cost of the conference ticket, as well as travel, lodging and food. Will you need special attire that you need to purchase beforehand? And will you be interested in making purchases from the vendor booths at the event?
Then, look at the sessions offered and consider if the topics presented will truly help you in your creative business. Read seminar descriptions and research the speakers if possible.
Finally, look at your calendar and weed out anything that seriously conflicts with your schedule. The conference should help boost your business, not put you behind or force you to miss other important events.
Conference Tip #2 – Prioritize Networking Opportunities
All the introverts reading this just cringed to themselves.
Networking can feel stressful and overwhelming when you don’t know anyone. Especially after spending the past couple of years holed up in our homes and avoiding other people.
However, the whole point of networking is to meet new people and make connections. Sure, the conference sessions are important, but networking will often provide the greatest benefits from the conference. It’s the people you meet who are likely to make the biggest impact on your business.
American icon and entrepreneur Jim Rohn said, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Meeting new people who are more successful than you can elevate your creative business to incredible new levels.
Every conference I go to, I make a point to introduce myself and socialize with at least one industry professional who I have heard of outside of the event but never met before. These individuals are often speakers, but not always. Sometimes they have vendor booths, and sometimes they are just attendees like me.
I take the extra time to talk to them outside of their sessions. I thank them for the information they provided and the work they’ve done, and then I ask them about the projects they are working on and what they are excited about.
This introduction offers a great opportunity to learn new things and connect with someone who is further along in their business than I am. If I’m lucky, they may even introduce me to others whom I can learn from as well. I have made a lot of amazing connections and good friends this way.
When making important connections, don’t talk about yourself until they ask. And when they do, keep your explanations short and to the point. Have your “elevator pitch” practiced and ready.
If they want to know more, they will ask, but this is not the time to overwhelm them with your interests or seek validation of your projects. This is your opportunity to learn from someone who has information that you don’t have yet, and that opportunity is golden.
Conference Tip # 3 – Bring Your Business Cards and Contact Details
We just discussed how one of the biggest benefits of conferences is networking with new people. Make it easier on yourself by having your contact information ready and easily accessible.
Trading business cards is a quick way to connect with people and gives them a way to remember you.
Conferences are a whirlwind of activity and it’s easy to lose track of the connections you make as you run from seminar to seminar. Collect information from the people you meet so you can follow up with them and make it easy for them to remember you by having your contact details ready to hand out.
I recommend having business cards with your picture on them so they can remember who you are later and recall your conversation more easily. Electronic business cards can also be effective if you have them set up in advance. Just be aware that not everyone will be comfortable with this form of connection.
If you are unsure which method would be the most beneficial for the conference you are attending, prepare both.
Conference Tip #4 – Attend the Sessions That Will Help You the Most Right Now
Depending on the conference, there will probably be more sessions than you will be able to attend during the event. Luckily, most conferences also offer recordings of their seminars to attendees so you can catch up on what you missed. With this in mind, choose the seminars you attend in person strategically.
Prioritize the sessions which focus on topics that will help you the most in your business right now. Attending in person will give you the opportunity to ask questions and even connect with other people who are in the same stage of business that you are in.
Take Good Notes
I also recommend taking notes.
I am a visual learner, which means I process information best when I see it rather than hear it. If I don’t take notes, I’m likely to forget everything I learned by the next session. Notes allow me to go back and process the information multiple times.
I also color-code my notes so I can easily pick out what points were most important.
I use one main color for topic info (usually blue or black), another color for sub-info, and a third brighter color for information that is most relevant to me right now or that I want to act on in the near future. This way, I can flip through my notes quickly when the conference is over and easily pick out the best gems from what I learned.
You don’t have to take notes this way. I’ve seen many people take notes on thier laptops or phones. A few people even audio record the sessions so they can listen to them again.
The most important thing is that you record the best information so you can go back over it later, when your brain has rested, and is better able to process and remember it.
Conference Tip #5 – Make an Implementation Plan
If you chose your conference wisely and took great notes, you will probably find yourself overwhelmed by massive amounts of information by the end of the conference.
New information is a huge conference perk. However, all the information in the world can’t help your business if you don’t implement it.
Making yourself an Implementation Plan at the end of the conference will help you act on the most important things that you learned.
How To Build An Implementation Plan
At the end of the conference, before you go home, sit down and go over all of your notes.
Choose 1 to 3 things, max, that you believe will make the biggest impact on your business. More than this and you will overwhelm yourself and forget to implement.
Then, make yourself an action plan for how you will get started on those things as soon as you get home.
Set goals for yourself and set up a series of timed steps for each thing you will implement. **For more help setting actionable goals for yourself, check out my Goal-Setting article here**
This is also the perfect time to add reminders to your calendar so you don’t forget to focus on these new action steps when you return home.
Reconnect With The People You Met The Week After The Conference.
My final conference tip is for when the conference is over.
Send the people you met at the event a quick email or text message thanking them for their time. Remind them of what you enjoyed about your conversations with them and how you hope to connect with them in the future.
This last step adds value to all the work you did while networking. Not only does it give you a record of who you talked to, it also reminds them of who you are and how great your conversations were.
This one acti0n will strengthen those connections tenfold.
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Professional conferences can be a powerful tool for growing your creative business. Investing in yourself and your growth is an important step in taking your business seriously and building it. You can see amazing benefits from attending conferences in person.
To get the most out of the conferences you attend, choose your events strategically, prioritize networking, bring connection tools like business cards, attend the sessions that will help you the most right now, create an implementation plan, and follow up with the people you met after the event.