Conference Tips and Tricks

Continuing education in the events industry is critical for business leaders who want to stay sharp and at the top of their game. We are lucky to work in the industry that produces the world’s conferences – when we get together to learn, we know how to do it right!

It’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed and in total awe at an industry conference, but attending is an investment of your time and money, so you want to approach it correctly. Here are some of the best tips and tricks around for making the most of your next conference experience!

Be Prepared

Get a hold of the conference materials before you attend and scour them for the right opportunities to further your experience. “Ask yourself, what kind of subjects you’d like to learn more about and keep an eye out for must-see speakers,” says Kevin Dennis, CPCE and President of Fantasy Sound.

Make Connections

Beth Bernstein, Owner & Event Director, SQN Events suggests that “each time you go back to your room or when you have downtime between sessions, go through the attendee book and check off who you met”. Bernstein says to help you remember them later, it helps to “write a little note about when you encountered someone new, and follow him or her on social media”. She adds that you should write a handwritten note to people you really connect with or those who you believe will be valuable connections for future business.

Morgan Montgomery, CPCE and Co-Founder of Paisley & Jade recommends pairing up with a buddy, “either someone you knew from before the conference or someone you hit it off with right at the beginning”. She makes a point of splitting off from her buddy so you can introduce each other to everyone you met and thereby meet twice as many people!

Bernstein also encourages attendees not to be shy! “Seek out the speakers after their sessions, at conference luncheons or in passing at the vendor expo, and introduce yourself,” she recommends. Engage them in one-on-one conversations and follow up with them with your handwritten notes reserved for VIPs.

Be a Model Student

“Sit up front during the sessions!” instructs Bernstein. Keeping close to the speakers forces you to stay more directly engaged and shows the right people that you are a serious student of your art.

Bernstein adds: “Don’t get caught up in social media. BE PRESENT. While everyone around you might be posing and posting, don’t give into the pressure. Snapping a few choice shots and using social media to share a few great ideas is one thing. More than that, though, and you’ll miss out on the education that you attended the conference to experience.”

Montgomery takes a fresh notebook with her to each conference she attends. “In addition to taking notes during presentations, I use the back pages to list ‘Action Items’ - things I want to do or implement as soon as I get back to my business.  This way, after the conference, I’m not overwhelmed with pages of notes to pour through in order to get started right away!” says Montgomery.

Observe Best Behavior

“Don’t overindulge”, says Bernstein. “While conferences can be nice opportunities to let down your hair and socialize with your industry contacts, it’s a really bad idea to be caught drunk in front of people with whom you ultimately want to do business. So don’t get drunk,” she finishes.

Finally, be your charming natural self! It can be easy to feel intimated when you go to conferences that have big-ticket names and powerful attendees. You are where you are meant to be, though, so don’t cave to the pressure. Be confident.

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Meghan Ely

President, OFD Consulting, Richmond, VA

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. 

Photo: Melody Smith Portraits