How to Rock It At a Conference

@huxley @armano and Siobhan

I just registered for the Connect Now conference in April. I may be freaking out. It will my first interstate trip by myself and will be a massive challenge. Its also a massive opportunity.

I love conferences. We don’t get that many awesome ones in Australia and Connect Now has attracted a high calibre of international guests. If you live in Sydney, or are attending, let me know so we can catch up.

Word of mouth and social media are my main methods of driving traffic to my business and projects. I’ve started planning my conference networking strategy and thought I’d write a quick post sharing my tips. I’d love for you to share your tips in the comments.

Go in with a plan

Planning is key. Most conferences are hectic and it is so easy for your schedule to get out of whack. The amount of work you do is dependent on your goals. My goal is to connect with as many people as possible because I dislike planes and live interstate. I also want to interview some of the speakers and attendees. My plans revolve around:

  • Meeting those that will be attending
  • Catching up with the people that I
  • Figuring out the interview questions where applicable
  • Researching the speakers so that I can get the most out of the 3 days
  • Arranging my finances and travel plans.

I’m starting early so as to make the week as seamless as possible. Its going to be a busy week and I want to make it as awesome as possible.

Research the speakers beforehand

This is something that I excel at. I usually do a lot of research prior to connecting with someone so that I can show that I know my stuff. There will be a mixture of people attending so I will be varying my research according to the person. I will be:

  • Reading their books. If I’ll be getting their books on the day, I will buy the ebook version.
  • Read their free ebooks
  • Go through their blog.
  • Research the interviews they’ve done via blogs, youtube and traditional press.
  • Look for any keynotes and presentations they may have uploaded online.
  • Observe how they interact with people on twitter
  • Research their company/business.
  • Contact them to see if there is anyway I can help promote their projects to my network.

This will be time consuming so I’ll do bits and pieces between now and the start date. I have only been to two conferences so will be adjusting my research as I learn.

Connect with the organizer in advance

This is something I did by accident last year. I did this because I wanted to help out and really loved the work Siobhan Bulfin was doing. It has only been recently that I realized that this connection – which I see as a friendship – could be useful.

I can learn about the behind the scenes stuff which will be useful when blogging the event. It may also be easier to get interviews and just know more about whats going on. I can see how this is useful in a business sense, but most importantly I’ve learned how it can be helpful to an anxiety sufferer in a different city.

I plan to adopt this strategy with future events but will carefully omit the bit about me having anxiety.

Plan to catch up with local people while in town

I have many social media friends who probably wont be attending this conference because they are well connected with the local social media community and can’t justify the entry cost. Thats cool. I decided to fly in a few days early and meet people on the Monday and Tuesday.

I am working on this in advance as it means coordinating multiple peoples schedules. I suspect I’ll be going to a meetup, a musical and will be meeting various people around the city. It will be tough – but I guess it means I’ll have to fly up for another Wicked performance business trip.

Have your elevator pitch and promotional materials planned well in advance

At my last two conferences, I met several people who would be considered an ideal client of our new business. Instead, I referred them to trusted friends. I’m kicking myself now because those clients were sneezers and ended up referring a lot of work to someone else. Those contacts became friends and thats brilliant.

It costs a lot of money to attend conferences. There are expenses associated with attending and travelling to get their. Currently I’m laid back about how much work I get because I go primarily to connect and learn. This event is primary to meet many of my Sydney friends in the days prior to the conference.

I wont be actively promoting my business but I’ll be watching how others promote theirs and will try to make as many new connections as possible.