Having been to dozens of conferences and organized seven (mesh and meshMarketing), I’ve learned there is an art to having a great experience. With some planning, a good conference experience can be that much more better. Here are a few tips:
1. Look beyond the keynotes. Like a beautiful girl or a handsome guy, the keynotes are sexy, glamorous and capture a lot of attention. And while they may meet expectations, much of the real value at a conference happens on the panels and workshops. It’s where you get into the news-you-can-you sessions that deliver the goods that can implemented after the conference is over.
2. Leverage the breaks. By accident, we learned the breaks between sessions at mesh and meshmarketing have as much value as the sessions themselves. This is when people have time to meet, talk and exchange ideas. With nowhere to go until the next session, it’s the perfect time to soak in the atmosphere, immerse yourself in the knowledge and enthusiasm of other attendees, and create some new relationships and friendships.
3. Wear your name tag and make sure it includes your name, employer and Twitter ID. It’s a lot easier to meet new people if you provide them some easy to access information.
4. Drink lots of water. Operating inside a building all day with lots of other people is physically taxing so be sure to stay hydrated. I suggest bringing your own refillable water bottle; it’s not only environmentally friendly but makes sure you have a nearby supply.
5. Have a good breakfast. My mother always said breakfast was the most important meal of the day – something I still believe. This is particularly relevant at a conference in which a good breakfast – and a good night sleep – can give you the mental and physical energy to enjoy the day. And breakfast doesn’t mean donuts and coffee! It means yogurt, fruit, juice and water..and maybe a donut.
6. Don’t be afraid to approach the speakers after they have done their presentations. In many cases, speakers tend to stick around and, like you, they’re looking for good ideas and interesting conversations. A few rules of thumb: if they’re engaged in conversation with someone else, be patient and wait until there is a window of opportunity. If you enjoyed the presentation, let them know. And if you don’t agree with some of their assertion, that’s okay but do so politely.
7. Enjoy the social events and make it a point to strike up conversations with new people. After soaking in so much information, having a drink with other attendees is a great way to share ideas and relax.
8. Record the highlights of the conference on a blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube or Vimeo. It’s a great way to document the speakers and sessions that resonated and, at the same time, share your ideas and thoughts with people who were not able to attend the conference.