You prepared ahead of time for that big conference. Now you find yourself at the event. What can you do to get more out of it?
|@AmberCadabra and @ThinkMaya |
at BlogWorld Expo 2009
Be your friendliest self. Act like you’re in a small town. Say hello to everyone. Talk to your neighbors, whether in line or at a table or where ever you find yourself. Pretend you are hosting a big party, and all of these people have chosen to attend with you. When you’re sitting in the partially empty room before a session, take the initiative to break the ice. It’s your party, after all!
Know how you plan to introduce yourself, what you want people at this event to know about you. Give people hooks, so they know how you might be useful to them. Don’t worry as much about handing out your card as you do about getting their card. That way you can be sure you follow up, not rely on them to remember. I got those ideas from Chris Brogan.
At really large events, you can’t count on seeing people more than once. If you see a friend, make time right then to stop and talk. I learned that one from Jeff Pulver.
Take photos of people, of signs, of everything. Want a trick to remember people’s names? Take their picture, then take a picture of their name tag. I’ve been doing it for years, and it really helps later.
Shoot video, even if you only have a digital camera. It makes you talk to people, and you can share their thoughts. Not sure what to shoot? Have one question you ask everyone. Keith Burtis did this at SXSW, asking several people to define social media.
Share with non-attendees by live blogging (posting raw notes as quickly as possible to your blog during events) or live tweeting (tweeting snippets of presentations using the event hashtag). Both are good ways to position yourself as a leader in the larger online community around the event. I always gain new Twitter followers when I live-tweet. Not everyone likes to do this or agrees that it is good form. Use your own judgment, and consider the audience.
Pick only one or two of these, as you can’t do it all. Adapt to your own style. I’m terrible about writing while at events, but I do usually make time to upload some photos each day.
Go to basic sessions to eavesdrop.
Pay attention to the questions that people ask – especially in the sessions.
These questions are insights into what your market needs. This is why I often attend sessions that cover subjects I’m very familiar with. I want to know what other people don’t know.
That information helps me choose what to write about and what services to offer. It’s market research.
*I love Carl Natale’s Expensiccino blog about premium pricing – one of those topics we never get enough of.
Go to “out there” and “off topic” sessions to broaden your thinking.
Rex Hammock taught me this for SXSW. Following his advice, I learned about augmented reality, predictive questions, and lots of other weird and wonderful things. I still look for crazy technical subjects that I would never normally consider.
For non-technology conferences, take in sessions designed for people outside your specialty. Sit in on a session for the finance people or the sales group. Look for topics that can get you outside your usual thinking pattern.
Next time? You guessed it; what to do after the event.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.