Conferences are the best, right? They have interesting people, great speakers to learn from, and the potential for numerous business deals.
If they’re so great, why do conferences wear us out so much? Why do we so often feel scattered and unfocused? Are they even worth the money?
The Two Secrets to a Great Conference
While there are a lot of factors that can make or break a conference, I think there are two big ones that really affect how well you use your time:
1. How well you take care of yourself:
We’ve all done this. Things are hectic, and you forget to drink water and eat well. Either you eat too much rich food, or you don’t eat enough because you’re so busy running around. In addition, conference attendees often spend the nights drinking, which can affect their alertness the next day. Carrying a water bottle, choosing healthy food, and being picky about when you socialize will help keep you focused on the goals of the conference.
2. How clearly you goals are set:
You can only find success in what you measure. Before starting the conference, write down your goals: Who do you want to meet? What do you need to learn? Are there any deals you need to start or close? Having an idea of what you need to accomplish will focus your time and keep you from hopping from one conversation to another without really gaining any benefit.
Taking good care of your body and setting some goals are a good foundation for a successful conference. If you truly want to maximize your time, however, there are a few more things to consider:
1. Make giving back one of those goals.
You know the phrase “It’s better to give than to receive”? It’s not just true at Christmas. When you go into a conference looking to help others, you will not only be doing good deeds, but you will be building a network of people who are truly happy to help when you need it. You could even end up making friends with the next big thing.
2. Don’t say, “I know.”
Even if you do, make it a point to listen without an agenda when people are talking to you. They might very well say something you didn’t know or bring up something you hadn’t thought about before. You also don’t know what’s going on internally for them as they’re speaking. The act of saying it out loud to you could set them on a whole new path and change their lives.
3. Follow up.
All too often, we go to conferences and collect a bunch of business cards that then collect dust. Have a plan for after the conference. Who are your priority contacts? What actions can you implement with the new things you learned and the new connections you made? The flight home is a great time to review the conference and make an action plan.
Pick the Right Conference
Of course, picking the right conference also has a huge impact on the return on your investment. There are plenty out there in every vertical, and it can be hard to judge which ones will be most beneficial for you. The most important thing to consider is quality over quantity. If you can go to one conference that really rocks your world, that’s infinitely better than going to five that are just okay.
So, how do you know which ones to pick?
1. Know the speakers.
Who do you want to listen to? If someone’s speaking on making millions of dollars in real estate, has he actually made a million dollars in real estate? Make sure you know who will speak at the conference, what they will be speaking on, and whether they’re actually credible.
2. Do your due diligence.
Ask past attendees about their experiences at the conference. Was it overcrowded? Did the schedule become overwhelming? What did they find valuable about the event?
3. Again, know your goals.
Will hearing the speakers or socializing with the attendees of the conference move the needle on your goals in any way? If you know it will, the conference is probably a good investment.
Conference season is fun and exciting. But it can also be exhausting and overwhelming. With a little preparation and thoughtfulness, you can easily maximize the time — and keep your sanity.
September Dohrmann is the COO of CEO Space International. Her role in the company encompasses rebranding, HR, office management, and finding external solutions for the company. CEO Space believes in cooperation among businesses; they seek to build a community that encourages, educates, and fosters new relationships with like-minded people in a conference setting.
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