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How to get most out of your visit to a conference

Adopted by Max Beckmann on Aug. 28, 2013, from a blog posted by Allison Myers on Aug. 27, 2013 @ Lantech Blog

Most of what you can achieve by a visit to a conference or trade show involves depends on proper planning and scheduling, but this little article is about the "softer" sides of business: networking, meeting new people, etc. — and how you can use that to make your next conference as cost effective and productive as possible.

1. Be bullish about follow up

How many times have you stopped by a booth and asked for a follow-up call, only to never hear from them again? Many company people see their duty at their company's booth during a conference as an interruption of their regular work, and everything they did during the conference didn't matter, because they we there to gather information themselves, not to provide it! They get back to the office, and the stack of cards and contacts they need to call to provide information gets buried under the stack of work that's waiting for them, and they never follow up, missing out on possible leads and opportunities. You may have important things to take care of when you return to work, but following up with your contacts needs to be a top priority. Honestly, these contacts are the main reason you went! As an independent consultant these contacts could set the tone for the rest of your year, so you can't let this slide! You may even want to start following up in your hotel room at the end of each day, just so you don't forget.

2. Ask people about solving other problems not related to them

Let's say you need help with shipping your widgets because you're getting a lot of shipping damage. You happen to be in the booth of a favorite parts supplier, so you mention it to them. It just so happens they know someone who can help you. Maybe their marketing director used to work for a stretch wrapping company. Or the stretch wrapper sales rep was in the booth ten minutes before you. Or maybe they dealt with the very same issue you're facing, and can recommend a solution. You never know who will have a key piece of information to help you. And only trying to find the solution without asking for help anywhere can waste a lot of time. To ask people you meet at a conference can help with solutions. They could save you weeks or even months of searching.

3. Create your own luck

What are the odds that you meet only one person, and he or she has your next big sale or amazing opportunity? If it happens, buy a lottery ticket because when it comes to business success, the odds of that happening are very remote. Instead, you create your own luck.

That means meeting a lot of people, shaking a lot of hands, having a lot of conversations, and attending as many events as possible. If there are after-hours events, attend them. If there are conference mixers, mix in them. This is the only way you're going to meet as many people in one location as possible. The more you talk to people and tell them what you're looking for, the more likely you'll meet someone who either has what you need or knows the person who does.

4. Recharge your batteries

Conferences are hard work. You're on all the time, you need to keep your energy up, and you need to keep a smile on your face and talk until you're tired of it. Then you need to keep doing it again.

It's especially hard for introverts, because meeting a bunch of new people is draining, and they need to be alone just to recharge their batteries. For the extroverts, it's the opposite. They hate being alone because it's draining, and being in a room full of people is just what they need to get moving. But, they run down and get tired too. Find time to unplug and relax. While this article is about pushing you to push yourself, that doesn't mean you should run yourself into the ground. Take some time before or after lunch (because you've hopefully got a lunch meeting) to find a quiet corner or lounge and relax for a bit. Put in some earbuds, listen a little to music, and close your eyes. After 20 – 30 minutes, you're ready to go again for the second half of your day.

While these lessons are important at any time of the year, whether you're in the office or on the road, a conference is a compacted microcosm of what a typical month might be like at work. But now you've got all these new people you need to talk to and all this new information to digest. If you follow these four little steps, you can get more out of your efforts and make the trip a success.

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