Attending a conference often provides an incredible opportunity to make new connections that can pay off later for your business. Even if the seminars are as dry as the Sahara, there are so many chances to network with other attendees in the hallways or at after-parties and meet-and-greets that it can be overwhelming for even the most social individuals.
As exciting as conferences can be, they can also be exhausting if you don't have a plan. Individuals who are more introverted by nature often feel drained after spending a lot of time on small talk and after conference events.
Below are a few tips to help you not just survive, but thrive, at your next business conference. [See Related Story: Going to an Industry Event? 5 Ways to Network Better]
Figure out where you think the right people are and go there. Perhaps a particular seminar or mixer is the right place where you will meet people specific to your field or niche. Taking the time to peruse the agenda and plan out which events you want to attend is especially critical at a major conference with hundreds or thousands of attendees.
Last year I attended Dreamforce, which is its own city within San Francisco. I made sure to find seminars and other gatherings focused on collaboration software, a field I was working in at the time. I met some interesting people from whom I could get answers to questions and gain insight that helped in my own business. Even if the final result isn't a sale, getting extra knowledge can be valuable down the road.
Even though most information is digital now, one paper essential that hasn't gone away is the business card. Conference attendees still ask for them and hand them out, because getting someone's card is the best method for getting that person's information all in one place.
Once you've collected cards from your new contacts, there are plenty of good business card scanner apps that dramatically speed the process of entering information into your phone or database.
How much you sell yourself and your products or services is going to depend on your role and how much a partner, boss, or colleague may approve of such self-promotion. If you're a sole proprietor, this is where a conference can be golden.
You can pitch your services when the moment arises and take advantage of situations that may turn into a big opportunity. You definitely don't want to go overboard here. Most people don't like a know-it-all or someone who is selling him or herself the entire time. However, people are usually doing a hybrid of mingling and trying to further their career at a conference, so getting your name and products/services out there is certainly not unusual.
Know your limits
If you've hit a wall at the meet-and-greets, call it a day. There's no reason to overdo it. You're likely to not make a great impression if you're tired and would rather be back in your hotel room anyway.
At the other end of the spectrum, it's awfully hard to make an 8 a.m. seminar if you're out at the pub until the wee hours of the night. Yes, a conference allows you more freedom than the usual workday, but it's still work. You can still have a good time while also making the most of your time and connections.
Leap to the stage
Finally, consider inquiring if you can be the one behind the lectern at an upcoming event. The authority and potential connections that come from presenting at a conference can make a big difference. So if you've thought about moving from the audience to the stage, this might be the right time to ask about making the leap