FOR THE BEST POSSIBLE ATTENDEE EXPERIENCE, READ THIS NOW!
Your RSVP is Yes. Your registration is in. You are taking your own time and committing it to being somewhere in order to accomplish a goal. Even something as simple as agreeing to meet someone for lunch has an end goal, even if it goes unsaid. You want to catch up, you want to network, you want to share news, etc. Why are you making the time to attend a large Board of Directors meeting? Why are you flying out of town to spend two days in a convention center? The answers are as varied as the people who say “yes”. For some, it’s about face time, or simply being seen. For some, it is about learning how to integrate the newest tech in their field, or hearing one of their mentors speak. For others it is about sharing their knowledge and finding other researchers to collaborate with. And if you are on the exhibit hall floor, it’s usually about marketing and sales.
You have committed to attend, you have a reason for that commitment. Now, how do you make the most out of your valuable time? How do you ensure a good experience? No matter the type of event or the goal behind your attendance, some of the tips below could help you make the most out of next month’s 3 day technology conference, or tomorrow’s networking lunch.
Acknowledge Your Goal
As far as first steps go, this one is pretty self explanatory. Answer the following question: Why am I attending this conference, dinner, keynote speech, meeting, roundtable, etc? When you know the why, you can start to make a plan to reach your goal. Even if your why is “so my boss will see that I was there” you are still maximizing your time by making a quick and easy plan to be seen.
Get The Lay of the Land
Why are the simplest things most often the hardest to do? In the age of smartphone GPS, we are usually in our car or on the sidewalk before we have even looked at a map of where we are going. How many times have you looked at the layout of a venue before you arrived for the main event? I will say, some people definitely do. And there are an equal amount of people who don’t realize that two sessions they want to attend back to back are actually a fifteen minute walk apart, or require a shuttle ride to another property. The first step to achieving your personal goal is knowing where you are physically going. It’s also the reason why they have catchy phrases like “know before you go.”
Download the App
Clearly your 6pm professional association networking event does not have an app. But it should. Everything should have an app. It’s not realistic, but it’s our utopia, and we’ll dream of all the apps if we want to. Having an app for your conference or event is no longer a modern, forward thinking move. It’s standard practice and a huge opportunity for you to receive all of the information you need ahead of your conference, meeting or event. As soon as you have confirmed your attendance, download the app and explore. Websites can provide plenty of information, but people spend the majority of their time accessing the internet from their personal smart devices. Knowing how to navigate the app ahead of time will not only give you information you can use to plan your agenda and know the lay of the land, it can also save you a lot of the aggravation that comes from trying to learn the app in a rush on the ground. There may also be additional features included in the app that benefit you before you arrive – such as special promotions/events, reservation opportunities, sponsor access, and push notifications for changes leading up to the event. Conferences…. There’s an app for that.
When There are Multiple Sessions: Prioritize
A popular session leads to a full range of emotions for meeting and conference planners. You can go from “we hit this one out of the park” to “we have to start turning people away” in a matter of minutes. And when you have worked hard to bring people the content they want, it is not fun to play door bouncer and enforce a “one in one out” rule. The best advice we can offer to the attendees waiting in line who tell us the only reason they came to the entire conference was to see this one session is: prioritize your schedule. Figure out your top two or three sessions, the ones that you do not want to miss, and be in the room ten to fifteen minutes early. Know the location of your most important sessions, and plan for the time it will take to get there from where you are coming from.
Don’t be afraid to engage with other people participating in the event ahead of time. Through the app, website, or personal avenues, find out who is going to be there and arrange time in advance to catch up or network with contacts. Look over the featured presenters and learn more about them. Follow them on social media and get a feel for their message so you know which ones you are most interested in hearing. If you really want to impact your event, engage with your sponsors. They are helping to make the event happen and will continue to do so if they are hearing from the attendees.
Can the food and beverage team accommodate your special diet? Is there a room for breastfeeding mothers who need to pump? Can you live stream the meeting content to your blog? If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. If a question comes up that you can’t find a clear answer to, reach out to the event organizers. They will be happy to get you the information you need and you might be helping them make future accommodations if enough questions and requests are received.
Take Care of You so You Can Take Care of Your Goals
At the end of the day, if you are not rested and ready to engage on the ground, you aren’t going to get the most from your event. So after you have made your advanced plan of attack, you need to be in shape to execute it. Make sure you build in some break time for yourself, especially during particularly intense programs.
Travel with shoes you already know will be comfortable for multiple days of excessive movement. If you have something on you that is important (phone, wallet, tablet, etc) make sure you have both your own and your emergency contact information on them. For instance, when you enter in your emergency contact info on an iPhone, people can access it without opening your phone. It’s the fastest way to get these items back into your hands.
Whatever your reasons for attending an event, conference, or meeting, your time is valuable. Approach your plans with your goals in mind, and make the most out of your experience.
Want to put together tips for your attendees that are specific to your event? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how we can help.