I’ve been attending conference for most of my working life and I’ve found that it’s a real skill to get the most out of an event like NamesCon. Although everyone will have their own style I thought that I’d share how I prepare and approach a major industry conference.
For a start, flying from Australia to Las Vegas isn’t cheap and combined with the jetlag at either end it’s really is a 10-day venture. To get a return on the investment of the direct costs and for my time I’ll want to make sure that I manage my time very carefully.
Before scheduling meetings, check the agenda. Nine times out of ten there will be a number of sessions that I will like to attend. Block these times out or you’ll find you can miss some great input that could potentially transform your business.
Always, check out who’s going to be attending and reach out to those people well before the conference for a meeting. You may bump into these people but it’s far more professional to actually schedule a meeting with outlined bullet points of what you would like to discuss…..don’t just wing it, think about things beforehand.
I’m typically up at around 7am and ready for a breakfast meeting. I then schedule meetings every hour over the first couple of days. What’s really important is that you arrange the meetings in the conference's time zone and not your local one…..it’s a rooky mistake to have schedule meetings in your local time zone only to find your phone has you in meetings at 3am in the morning when you land in Vegas.
One of the brilliant features of Outlook is you can schedule meetings for ANY time zone. For NamesCon, make sure you use the time zone for Vegas. If there was a daylight savings change then Outlook will automatically take this into account. There’s always some meeting I have where the person turns up at the wrong time because they’ve messed this up.
So where should you meet. The only place that doesn’t move in a conference is the registration desk…..everything else will change from one conference to another. Arrange to meet at the registration desk and then find an appropriate location together. If you are lucky enough to have a suite, then you can always provide the room number for the person your meeting to go up to.
Make sure you schedule meetings for the start of the conference first as this will leave gaps later in the conference where you can have that all important impromptu meeting. Ideally, find out if the person you are meeting with will be at the conference a day or two beforehand…..meet with this people then. Typically speaking, I end up with 20-30 minute meetings on the last day of NamesCon and it feels a little like speed dating.
Take notes in all your meetings! When you’re having a large number of meetings one after another it’s almost impossible to remember who said what to whom….so take notes to refer to later.
Reserve the evening for some socialising and meeting numbers of different people. A couple of things though….you can’t have a reasonable conversation with someone if the music is too loud. At best, you’ll be able to suggest meeting the next day.
Next, there is no point trying to do a deal with someone that is drunk. They’ll agree to anything and not remember a thing the next day. From experience, it’s far better to be in bed asleep before midnight (last night excepted)…..worthwhile meetings are physically taxing and you need to make sure you’re ready to fire on all cylinders the following day.
Whatever you do make sure you take some time out to walk around the exhibit floor. It’s often VERY worthwhile stopping at each booth to learn about new businesses and to see if there are opportunities to work with them.
On the last night of a conference I like to relax and get together with a group of people who are prepared to leave business at the door. Deals that can be done have already been done so my goal is often to catch-up with old friends, talk about our families and have a good time together.
On my journey back home, I refer to the various business cards, my diary, and notes to put together a conference summary report. I find this focuses my mind on the opportunities and what I’ve committed myself to while providing members of the ParkLogic team a snapshot of what was achieved while I was away. This also provides a quick list of all of the people I need to follow-up.
If I feel up to it, I will often email all the people I’ve met at NamesCon while on the plane flying home. When I land connect to the Internet all the emails will be sent out and I then need to think about following them up.
This is some of the things that I do to get the most out of conferences like NamesCon. It’s often said that you get out of a conference how much you are willing to put into them. Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone and talk to a complete stranger…..you never know, you may find you can do a heap of business together!