How to make the most of events
Events are great opportunities to build new connections, promote your brand and learn about the latest innovations in an industry. However, the potential time and money spent on tickets, travel and preparation can be significant. With that in mind, we’ve pulled together a whistle-stop tour of tips and tricks to help you make the most of the events you attend and ensure your investment pays off.
Plan and Prepare
Attending an event with no preparation is like trying to cook a new dish without a recipe — you’re likely to have wasted your time and resources and be disappointed with the outcome. It’s important you think carefully about what you aim to get out of the event beforehand. Are there any interesting stands you’d like to visit or conference programmes you’d like to attend? Perhaps there are key people you want to network with, or you know several existing connections will be attending? Taking a careful look at the event website and agenda is essential here, as well as monitoring LinkedIn and other communications channels for updates. Once you have these details, create a rough agenda for the day — this may well change once you get to the event, but it’s useful to have some direction on where you’d like to be and when, so you don’t miss out.
It’s also a good idea to investigate whether there are any speaker or editorial opportunities you can utilise. Many event organisers will welcome speakers who can provide a thought leadership angle to a trending topic — just make sure you contact them well in advance. The media partners page on the event website is a great place to search for journalists who could be attending and might be interested in collaborating on an editorial piece. In addition, make sure it’s easy for other people to find out you’re attending — a simple post on social media will do.
Once you have an idea of who you’ll be networking with on the day, it’s important you refine your elevator pitch so you can state who you are and what you do in a clear and concise way. Make sure you also have all your relevant documents ready to take with you, such as business flyers and plenty of business cards.
Make yourself memorable
Now you’re prepared, your focus at the event should be making yourself memorable and recalling who you meet and what you learn. Your elevator pitch will help people remember you and your company, but there are other ways you can ensure this. For instance, when you’re networking, don’t jump straight into business — it’s a sure way to turn someone off. Make sure you also get your personality across, perhaps with some unique facts about yourself that will make you stand out from the crowd. And remember to show a genuine interest in who you’re speaking to — no one wants a one-sided conversation. At the end of your chat, always ensure you exchange business cards and write notes about the person and conversation you had on their card so you can remember for later.
Keep in mind that it’s not just visitors and people at stands who you can interact with. Conference sessions provide a great place for extra networking. Try sitting at the front — that instantly builds rapport with the speaker. You could also get to the session five minutes early and strike up a conversation with other members of the audience. At the end of the session, ask the speaker if they can email you the slides — it’s a great ice breaker and provides the opportunity for further discussion after the event.
Before you leave the event, remember to get some photos. Ask another visitor if they can take a photo of you next to the event sign — it’s a great segue into a chat and you can post the photos on social media later.
The event doesn’t end after you leave
Arguably, the actions you take after an event can have the biggest impact. After all, if you don’t document what you’ve learnt and follow up with the contacts you’ve collected, how will the event aid your future activities? The first thing you should do is go through all the business cards you gathered and filter out those that are most relevant. Add these contacts on LinkedIn and consider sending a direct message or email to follow up. You could also write an article about the event for your blog or train people in your company on what you’ve learnt.
With a wealth of information and potential contacts available, you can easily worry about missing opportunities at an event. But if you plan, make yourself memorable and action a few key tasks after the event, you can ensure the time and money you invested pays off.
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