As the calendar page turns, it starts to become conference season. The period from February to June is stacked with industry conferences of all kinds in the tech space. Starting with CES, but moving on to the RSA conference and dozens of others.
Having gone to more of these than I can count, here are a few musings on getting the most out of these events:
- Have a plan. Take the time to review the agenda ahead of the conference to highlight “must attend” sessions, but be sure to consider logistics as you do. How far apart are the sessions? Have you left yourself time to eat and return some emails?
- Unplug. Attending a conference shouldn’t be just another place for you to do email. Put your phone down and listen. That’s what you’re there for.
- Meet people your way. Not everyone likes to “work the room” at a giant reception. That’s okay. But attendees are everywhere. Sometimes a simple thing like saying “hi” in an elevator can turn into a meaningful contact.
- Network on the run. More and more events have informal social events on the calendar to help drive networking. At TED, I’m a big fan of the “morning run.” It’s literally that—a group of 20 or so attendees going for a run together and chatting as they do.
- Be realistic. I see a lot of organizations that don’t have realistic plans for their presence at an event. A classic example—“We’re going to announce our new standard at CES.” Really? Samsung had a 170 inch 8k TV (really, they did). Do you think anyone is going to remember your specification?
- Meeting place. Scope out a place near the conference where you can do side meetings without a huge crowd. I’m a fan of Beard Papa Cream Puffs by the Moscone Center in San Francisco. It’s quiet. And there are cream puffs.
- Stay healthy. I buy a small hand sanitizer at the CVS on the Las Vegas strip every time I’m in town. But conferences are filled with lack of sleep and lots of people—a great recipe for getting sick.
- Pack right. Business cards. The right shoes. Chargers. Ibuprofen. These are the things that can make or break your experience.
- Follow up. Use the plane ride home to write notes to speakers you enjoyed, attendees you connected with or exhibitors with products you liked. Do this while the experience is fresh in your mind.
What have I missed? Shoot me an email or comment below with your favorite conference tip.