How to Conference like a True Professional: Tips for Trade Show Attendees--New and Experienced
As a trade show attendee, you'll experience varied events, take in hundreds of exhibits, and encounter numerous networking opportunities with like-minded professionals. These tips will help you personalize your learning and plan a fun and engaging experience:
1. Plan to participate to the fullest extent.
You can sleep later. Seriously. Even though you may have had a strenuous trip and are completely wiped out, put on your big girl (or big boy) panties and get going! Every event you miss is a missed opportunity.
2. Get the most bang for your (or your organization's) buck.
Trade shows offer top-notch opportunities, so planning should be well underway before you leave for your trip. Set a few key goals for the event, and then plan tactics to meet those goals. Review sessions, events and exhibitors' locations in advance, and check to see if there is an app to download to plan your experience and receive updates. This game plan allows strategic selection of events to attend and exhibitors you want to engage with to ensure opportunity to meet your goals.
3. Take advantage of the available networking opportunities.
Get ready to encounter a variety of outstanding professionals—prep two or three focus questions to use as you network with others. Questions might pertain to an issue you've been experiencing or to a new initiative you have been considering. As you attend sessions or netoworking events, spark a discussion early by asking a focus question at your table group. Get ready to jot down all of the insight and advice coming your way, to use to when you get back home.
4. Have a system for organizing your thoughts and notes.
Use a "network template" to organize your thoughts. Record contact information, notes and ideas gathered that would benefit you and your colleagues. This format will help you retain information for reflection and implementation meetings, and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. There are a multitude of apps for scanning business cards that also allow you to log notes about your interactions. Pair them with photos of your new connections, to help you remember whom you chatted up.
5. Schedule reflection time—and then let the enthusiasm drive you!
Thinking and learning is abundant at trade shows. Allow time each day and at the end of the event to process your thoughts. Think about the most important things you learned or encountered. Determine the key takeaways and contacts. Plan immediate action items, put other ideas in a "someday" file, and let the enthusiasm gained drive you toward your goals!
Written by Jennifer Reynolds, contributing writer for Groups Today.