How to master the art of conference attendance

By Sarah Stowe | 29 Oct 2015 View comments

Show off your organisational skills with these practical tips for managing the day-to-day tasks of conference attendance.

Be prepared, the devil is in the detail.

You have decided to set aside time to be at a business conference. You have studied the program for the conference and marked those sessions that you definitely want to attend and those which are optional in case you have conflicting meetings with clients and colleagues. A business conference is a great networking opportunity with the potential of establishing long term clients, friends and business colleagues. These are opportunities that should not be left to chance.

When to arrive?

If at all possible, arrive the day before the conference so that you can get organised, adjust to the new time zone and familiarise yourself with the hotel and conference layout. If you are arriving at the last minute, make sure that you have looked through the website of the conference location and seen the map of where you need to be and make an educated guess as to be time it will take to get from A to B.

Business cards

Always bring double the number of business cards that you expect to need to any conference. Most conferences now offer a high-tech alternative with barcoding on the registration document, conference App and a variety of other options. This new technology is to be used but is not a replacement for the good old-fashioned business card. If you’re attending an international conference, make sure that your business card has international telephone numbers on it.

Apps for a conference

If the conference has a conference App then check how many people have downloaded it as compared with the total number of people expected to register at the conference. If you are early to download the App, don’t waste your time sending out large amounts of information as it will most likely fall into a black hole and be a waste of effort. If you have a person back at your office, it may be best to have that person send out invitations on your pp during the first day of the conference when everyone else has also uploaded the App and is ready to use it.

Many Apps are still poorly designed and inefficient. If you see a trouble with the App, make a decision as to whether to use it all and if you don’t, be generous and explain this to the conference organisers so that they can make an improvement for the next conference.

Conference lanyard

So often you receive a conference lanyard that includes a spelling error. Make sure that you check this before leaving the registration desk. Most lanyards remain poorly designed and spin around so that half the time the person that you are talking to cannot see your name. If this is the case at least put a business card on the blank side of the lanyard.

Never forget your lanyard!

When you walk into your hotel room, the first thing you should do is to put your conference lanyard on the inside door handle. This makes sure that when you leave to return to the conference you will see and put back on the lanyard and save yourself anonymity or a long walk back to your room to retrieve the lanyard.

Top pocket full of business cards

The business cards that you receive can contain vital information about business colleagues that you spoke to and potential future clients. As you meet people put their business cards into your top pocket or purse in the order of each chat with any added reminder notes on the back of cards so then it is feasible that you can reconstruct notes of each conversation in the days or weeks following the conference. This leads to the all-important follow-up opportunities which are one of the main reasons for attending the business conference.

Urgent follow-ups

It is usual business conference protocol that you have one to two weeks after a conference to make contact with people. Occasionally discussions that you had are so important or impressive that you initiate follow-up overnight or during the conference. It is vital that you avoid using a pro forma correspondence format as there is no excuse for not remembering particular personal details when you are sending correspondence contemporaneously with the conference.

Meet someone new

Many people have a natural talent to walk in and speak with someone that they have never met before. For others it is a major challenge. For those people, it is vital that at least on one occasion you practice your skills of meeting a total stranger and launching into a conversation. If you are lost for ideas then the conversation could start with:

  • asking which session the other person just attended
  • asking what are the outcomes that the person wants to achieve by the end of the conference
  • questioning what that person thinks of the new conference app!

Summary

Over your business career you are likely to attend hundreds of business conferences. Approached in the right manner, they can be highly profitable, enjoyable and stress free. Most importantly they can expand your network and business opportunities.