Getting ready to kick off conference season? Even if you’re a seasoned pro, you likely could still benefit from conference trends tips on how to get the most out of each event. It helps to view conferences as more than just an educational opportunity; they can also be fantastic places to network for both leads and professional connections. This isn’t always easy for every attendee. “Approaching new people can be difficult because of the obstacles we put in front of ourselves as well as those innate to a conference setting,” writes Alice Heiman in a recent blog post. “As a result, you sometimes leave events without making meaningful contacts.”
Her first tip is to start your day off on the right foot. Often, breakfast is an option for attendees before a conference actually kicks off. Don’t skip out on this great opportunity! Heiman suggests heading to the optional breakfast early to get a feel for the room and find a good spot to sit. Ideally, you should try to find a table that is already occupied by at least a few other attendees you have not met yet and ask to sit with them. “Don’t sit by yourself hoping someone will come to sit with you,” she urges. “Find a table that has happy people who are talking and join them.”
Often, attendees at conferences include tight-knit groups. These groups can be intimidating to approach and talk with if you’re at the conference all by yourself. Luckily, Heiman has some advice for connecting more easily with others, groups or no groups.
Connecting with other attendees beforehand is among up-and-coming conference trends. So, you should check out the conference’s website, app, and social media pages to look over the list of speakers and other attendees. Do your research to identify and reach out to anyone who you think would make a great connection beforehand. With the absence of having to think on your feet, coming up with an engaging conversation topic about the conference that you hope they haven't heard before, and not having time to think through your responses to find the best wording, it’s definitely easier to engage with someone electronically than in-person. And who knows, if you connect with other attendees beforehand, you could be invited to join their group so that you'll automatically have a handful of new people to meet before branching off on your own to expand your circle of connections.
If it’s your first time attending a particular conference, contact the organizer. Often, events will have “extras" for newbies, such as programs or badges. Also, Heiman recommends asking if they can introduce you to a vet attendee who can show you the ropes.
Take time to research the speakers. Then, connect with them via a personal note or social media message. Ask if they would have time for a quick meet-up, and if not, make sure to say hello before or after their presentation. “You’ll be surprised how effective this gesture can be,” Heiman explains. “Developing relationships with speakers can provide you with resources and potential referral opportunities.”
For even more conference trends tips, head over to Heiman’s full blog post. Whether you’re naturally outgoing or need a bit of prodding to approach others, her advice will help you connect.