I recently attended Content Marketing World and next week I’m off to Connections 2013. I attend a handful of conferences each year for work and education (including Dreamforce and SXSW). I’ve learned a lot – not only from the sessions and speakers but from the other attendees. Here are 30 helpful conference tips I’ve collected along the way.
1. Be friendly everywhere you go. You never know when you’ll meet someone great. (It can happen while waiting in line for the bathroom.)
2. If the conference offers an app, download it. That will help you navigate before and during the show.
3. Bring a notebook to take notes. WiFi and batteries are never a guarantee.
4. Sometimes it’s just better to put down your phone and listen to the speaker. You’ll learn more.
5. Get an external mobile battery charger. When you can’t reach a wall plug, a doodad like this one helps you in a jam.
6. Always sit next to someone you don’t know. By the end of the session, you’ll have a new connection.
7. Make lunch and dinner plans with new or existing friends.
8. Go to the social events. You’ll meet new people and have a great time.
9. If you enjoyed it last year, go to that conference again. You’ll learn new things and see your friends from last year’s show.
10. Plan the sessions you’ll be attending ahead of time. Some conferences require it.
11. Drink plenty of water (beer doesn’t count). Bring a small Nalgene and keep it filled.
12. Throw away any inhibitions. You’ll have a better networking experience that way.
13. Small talk works. Just a mention of where you live can start a big conversation and lead to business from there.
14. Blog before you go. You’ll get your name out and start the connection process early.
15. Try to live blog. It has a better chance of getting shared since it’s timely.
16. Blog when you get back. It helps you collect and share your learnings.
17. Coffee isn’t breakfast. Wine isn’t dinner. In other words: Eat.
18. Use the conference hashtag. It will make it easier for other attendees to see your Tweets.
19. Meet and thank the people who run the conference.
20. Take pictures of everything. You can use it for blogging, social sharing and even to recap the experience to your boss.
21. Get to the Expos early to grab the best swag. The good stuff gets picked up quick!
22. It’s OK to leave a session early if it’s not for you.
23. Bring a brick’s worth of business cards. You don’t want to run out!
24. Make notes on the back of the business cards you collect. It will help you remember the person for follow up.
25. It’s great if you go to a conference with coworkers, but take some time away from them. You’ll meet more people as a one-man show vs in a tight group.
26. Ensure your work is covered before you leave so you can focus on the event.
27. Sit in the front row at sessions. It forces you to pay attention and you are practically first in line to meet the speaker afterward.
28. Wake up early and exercise each morning – you’ll have more energy at the conference.
29. Wearing a shirt with toucans on it starts conversations. In other words, wear a unique item, like funny socks to get conversations going.
30. Smile. You should be having fun above everything else.
What other tips and tricks would you add? Are you attending any good conferences? Share your thoughts here.