Tips: A Beginner’s Guide to Attending Conferences

If you’re planning to attend a conference soon, there’s a lot to do to prepare. You may be asking yourself: What should I wear? What’s going to happen? Who do I talk to? While these are important questions to ask, the last thing you should be worrying about is what you plan to wear. That is why we have compiled some points to help you navigate your first conference experience.

The preparation doesn’t end with registering and booking your travel. There are plenty of things to do in the weeks leading up to attending a professional conference. The investment of time, travel and energy required to go to a conference makes it more important to be prepared before you go. These six tips by will help you organize yourself so you can ensure you’re walking into the conference fully prepared.

Develop an Elevator Pitch
You’re going to meet a lot of people in a short period of time, so being able to introduce yourself in 30 seconds or less will make the process easier and allow you to meet as many people as possible. Write down the essential points you want to get across, and practice speaking them out loud until it becomes second nature.

Network in Advance
Most conferences have a hashtag for attendees and speakers to use when talking about the event online. Use the hashtag in a post to announce that you have registered for the event, and search the hashtag to see what others are already talking about. Jump in on conversations on Twitter and make connections before the conference even starts. Discuss session topics, things to do in the host city or make plans to meet up in person.

Update your Social Profiles
Expect to receive a number of connection requests when you log into your social media accounts during or even after the conference. Before you head off to the event, update your social media profile information, especially if you’re looking for a new job opportunity. Upload a recent picture to all of your accounts, so other attendees know they’re clicking on the right profile.

Knowledge is Power
Attend as many sessions as possible. Try to arrive early and sit in the front so that:

  • You can see the presenter.
  • You can hear what the presenter is saying.
  • You have a better chance of asking the speaker a question.

Don’t forget to introduce yourself to the people around you– a valuable business connection could be right around the corner!

Walk the Floor
Most conferences have an exhibition floor filled with sponsors and companies showcasing their services or products. Take some time to walk through the exhibition floor, and see if there are any companies you’re interested in working with or investing your money in.

Talk to People Around You
Get to your session a bit early to socialize before the presentation. Greet the people around you. Once you have broken the ice, it will be easier to talk with them if you see them again. If you feel there is a common connection, or if you want to continue the conversation, ask for their contact information to keep in touch.

Make your Questions Count
Don’t be shy. Introduce yourself to other delegates, and then get the conversation going with a few questions. People commonly ask questions such as, “Where are you from?” and “Where do you work?” Consider asking more meaningful questions such as, “What are you most passionate about in this field?” and “What sessions or speakers have you enjoyed at the conference so far?” By asking questions like these, you get people talking about something they care about and something you both have in common.

Put Your Technology Away
It is a good idea to bring your technology to a conference, but do not turn to your phone, laptop or tablet at every break. When you are focused on your electronics, you send the message that you are unapproachable. Use your time on breaks to converse with others.

Follow Up After the Conference
Once you get home from the conference, don’t forget to follow up.! Many people don’t follow up after networking and miss out on enormous opportunities. Use your follow-up email as a way to ask questions or open the door for connecting on social media. Sending a personalized LinkedIn request may be an appropriate way to follow up as well.

When you attend a conference, have concrete goals in mind for your networking in advance. Be both interesting and interested, and be willing to step out of your comfort zone.