If you've read my recent post on the importance of investing in conferences, you will see that there are so many exciting conferences coming up. I'm now in the process of handpicking three to four conferences that I need to attend so that I can increase my network and learn new things.
The first live conference that I went to was a blogging conference called Blogger Bootcamp. I had such a great time at the conference, but honestly I was so unprepared. When you go to conferences, you have invested a lot of money and time in it, so being prepared can help you get the most out of your experience.
Besides making sure that your hair, nails, face, and eyebrows are on fleek, and that you have a nice outfit, there are so many things that you should take care of before the big day.
Here are a few things that you need to do before you attend your next conference.
1. Make a hit list
Prior to the conference, make a list of at least six people that you should connect with. These people can either be panelists or people that will be attendees like yourself. You can find panelist information by going to the conference website or social media. The list of people that are attending the conference will not be public, but with social media, you can use the power of hashtags to find out who is coming. For example, when I went to Blogger Bootcamp, I used the conference hashtag on Instagram and Twitter and was able to see who was coming. Then I did a little Instagram and Twitter stalking - don't judge me, we all do it - and I was able to get some background information on the people that were going.
In addition to writing down at least six people to connect with, I write a quick blurb on who they are, why we should connect, and a conversation starter idea just in case my mind goes blank when I see them. No one enjoys boring conversation starters about the weather.
2. Work on your elevator pitch
We all know the importance of the elevator pitch, but sometimes we forget that you need to mold your elevator pitch so that it is fitting with the event or moment. For example, if you are at a women's conference, it may be important to craft your elevator pitch in a way that speaks about you, discusses what makes you valuable, and what it is about you that others can benefit from (as it relates to the purpose of the conference that you are attending).
Here is an example pitch: Hi, my name is Brittani, and I am a manager and journalist that loves to empower and lead women through educational and inspiring content.
Keep in mind, your elevator pitch should be short, to the point, and should not be boring or sound rehearsed. You don't want to sound like you are reading from a teleprompter!
3. Get business cards
This may sound obvious, but trust me it is not! At my last conference (and even at networking events that I have been to), I have met so many people that do not own personal business cards. Even worse, I met some people that have business cards, but it is their card for their 9-5 job. You should never take along your job's business card unless you are at the conference on behalf of your job. If you take your job's business card to a conference, keep in mind it is your company's email and phone number that is on the card. If you give someone your company's business card, but then you leave your company within the next year, the person who you gave the card to won't be able to connect with you anymore.
Always, and I mean always, invest in personal business cards. Even if you are not an entrepreneur with a booming business, you can still have personal business cards. On your business card, keep it simple and sleek and include your full name, phone number, email, what you do, and your social media handles. Too many times, I have been handed some of the most ratchet business cards from people that doesn't include an email or phone number. Yes, you read that right. There are so many people that fail to include the most important, basic information! Don't make that mistake. You should make it easy for people to find you and connect with you.
You can get really inexpensive business cards from Office Depot/Office Max, Vista Print, and Moo. Check them out, they are all pretty inexpensive and make quality cards. While you are at it, don't forget your business card holder!
4. Connect with panelists and attendees
You've made your hit list for the conference, but make sure you follow them on social media as well. Use the time before the conference to do a little networking, and it will also make conversations go even smoother once you see them in person.
If you have read any of my articles, you know that I am in love with LinkedIn. If you don't have one, get one now and update it with your job experiences, skills, and portfolio work. Prior to the conference, scour over your LinkedIn and make sure that it is fully updated - you should also do the same for your other social media accounts. For example, if you plan on giving someone links to your Twitter and Instagram page, go on there and make sure the message that you are delivering is the message that you want others to get from you.
If you have your own website and blog, update it as well with recent information. If you are a blogger, add new, refreshing content and maybe curate content that will be relatable to the conference. Also, on your website, make sure your social media and contact information is up-to-date.
6. Make a hit list for the conference schedule
Conferences that are really big and popular tend to have several different panels and events for people to attend. Look at the conference schedule closely and mark off events that you have to attend. Make sure you pay close attention to the location where the event or panel will take place and the times. You don't want to over schedule yourself or poorly plan and end up missing really important events.
7. Read industry news and know what's going on
If you are planning on going to a conference in a specific industry, search for recent news pertaining to that industry. At the conference, you will want to successfully and intelligently engage in all types of conversations. You can find industry news by reading publications, looking online, or listening to, and watching podcasts.
8. Prepare your tech kit
Going to a conference, you want to make sure you have your technology emergency kit. This includes your laptop or tablet, charger, and portable charger for your cell phone. In addition, make sure you include a durable bag to put all of that in as well. I even recommend bringing a pen and a journal (just in case your computer crashes).
9. Plan ahead with perfect shoes
Going to conferences, you want to look your best. Most importantly, you want to wear something that makes YOU comfortable. I am a believer in being cute, but comfortable. Everyone cannot wear high heels, and that is okay - there are so many cute flats available. You do not want to be caught at a conference walking like a three-year-old in heels. Find shoes that you know you will be comfortable walking and standing in for hours.
What are some other ways that you prepare for conferences? Drop a comment below and let us know!
Click here to catch a list of conferences that are worth attending this year.