Remember your 6th birthday? Such a milestone. We were so proud of turning 6.
Six-year-olds are in the moment, enjoying life as it presents itself.
But you are not 6 anymore.
Conferences are good for you. And they can be fun. Or make you crave tearfully for a silent retreat. Or both.
Here’s how to make the most out of your conference, without sinking into an exhaustion-induced stupor at the end of Day 1.
1. Choosy People Last Longer.
You choose or someone else will choose for you. Laura Camacho[said to her children 76,472 times]
You don’t have to attend every. single. breakout session. Go with what looks interesting and what suits your energy flow.
I prefer learning venues and morning events. Happy hour is happier for me if it starts at 4 instead of 5:30. (11 am cocktails would be even better.)
When I was six or so and at those excruciating spend-the-night parties, I would find a place to hide my sleeping bag [with me in it] so I could go to sleep by 11. I’m not motivated to break that habit at this point in my life but one day I may become a raging night owl.
Naps are permitted if you’re staying close enough to the venue. No one has to know.
2. Goals Give Guidance
Getting the most of an event involves being open to what’s in front of you and being strategic about meeting specific people or connecting with specific companies. It’s a “yes, and” situation.
Don’t ignore the people sitting next to you right before the speaker begins. Even if he’s on the phone, it’s probably because, well, awkward.
Look at who will be there before you get there. On the other hand, don’t be so focused on meeting the right people that you miss out on the people right next to you.
3. Be in Offer Mode
This is not the time for asking, it’s the time for giving, for offering to help.
What can you offer a perfect stranger?
If you know the city, make recommendations.
If you can think of some person of interest, make introductions (remember double opt-in first).
Offer what you’ve learned so far, what you are enjoying and what you look forward to.
Getting in offer mode, instead of asking mode shifts your energy. Turn your focus to make others feel comfortable and enjoying themselves brings you that birthday party feeling. Only without the post-sugar crash.
4. Bring Your Signature Conversation Starters
For heaven pity’s sake this is not to time to ask “So, what do you do?”
Ask What brings you to this conference?
What have you learned today?
What has been your favorite session so far?
What has surprised you at this conference?
Tell me about the interesting people you’ve met.
What’s your favorite podcast?
5. Your Treasure Is In the Thank-you Notes
Not only is the fortune really is in the follow-up, if you DON’T follow up then no one is going to remember you.
Connecting on LinkedIn is a bare minimum.
Writing a quick note is good.
Sending the person a resource is better. One friend and colleague sends out her session notes on an event as follow-up.
Meeting the person for coffee or lunch is best of all. You could even organize a gathering with a few people you met. Not necessarily an after party, but an after-conference party.
Attending a conference is like getting the chance to live in another country for a few days, or a few hours. Learn from people who see things differently. Enjoy the ride!