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Industry Conferences typically offer participants a mixed bag of opportunities, but also has the potential to draw you towards overindulgence easily. Keeping this in mind, it is not recommended to attend such events without a game plan as every event is distinctive and has something unique to offer. This is because the steady flow of delegates and conference activities can be confusing or overwhelming at times and just carry you along in its tide. Eventually leaving you without anything substantial as a take away but just a hangover and a few forgettable visiting cards.
Try a different approach for your next conference. Instead of trying to absorb and engage with all and sundry, try a more selective approach. With this you are sure to come away satisfied with a handful of meaningful contacts that you will cherish. The main outcome of this exercise is to come away from such forums with a bunch of real Linkedin business contacts that are bound to last and are meaningful.
Featured below are seven tips that will ensure you have made the most out of your conference participation.

  • Plan who you would like to connect with well in advance. This can be managed with the help of the attendee list and other conference material which are freely available. One can also use social media to dig out information. Look out for conference hashtags which these days churn out a wealth of data. Make an effort and connect with participants online by introducing yourself politely and by mentioning that you would like to meet them. Do a little background research on key people prior to meeting them at the event.

Try a similar approach with the list of speakers at the event. Reach out to them in advance and make it to their sessions. Stay around after the sessions and meet and greet them in person. Spend as much time as possible in socialising. In case you miss a particular session, request the speaker for notes and explore an opportunity to connect later over a cup of tea to discuss it.

Such forums are typically also an opportunity to renew existing networks. Probably a former client or a business associate that you wish to catch up with. Plan accordingly and reach out to the person in advance to spend time in a meaningful manner.

  • Leverage social media to highlight your presence and involvement in the conference. Being active on social media always sends out the right message and also allows others to find you for business purposes. But do not go overboard by tweeting and posting every little incident at the venue. Be selective about your posts, it gives you more credibility and vantage.

Look out for key highlights in the event, commendable quotes and any pictures that are contextual for your participation to make it more relevant. Approach each post as a conversation starter. Tag your friends and other attendees to the posts to encourage them to contribute and comment. Remember to use the official hashtags to increase visibility for your posts.

  • Try to stand out and get noticed in the conference. Bring out your own signature identity to make an impact at the event and to be remembered. Spend as much time as possible socialising with various visitors to become a familiar face during the course of the event.

Resist the urge to catch a siesta at noon but instead find time to meet and greet visitors who are up and about. Remember the people who matter are always present at the conference and are also looking to make the most of such events.

Another way to get noticed easily is to ask questions during the Q&A sessions. This is an ideal way to introduce yourself when you have the microphone and then to ask something that is possibly on the minds of other delegates but are probably shying away from asking.

  • Avoid Grouping: Typically, one attends conference with their colleagues and peers. Try to avoid spending time with them most of the time. Clustering also makes you appear grouped in one comfort zone not allowing others to engage with you freely. You will also notice that the confident and successful networkers typically fly solo.

Another bad habit is to stay immersed in your phone through the event. While no doubt everyone has important mails and messages to attend, try to allocate time for it separately so that it does not intrude on your networking opportunities during the conference.

  • Learn the art of Networking 101. Try to socialise and engage with others on a variety of topics rather than restricting yourself only to business. Try to be helpful and assist others with any information pertaining to the city or their whereabouts, etc. Also learn to be a good listener as many industry seniors like to share and be vocal during conversations.

Try to leave the serious work-related topics for discussion for later. Once you have broken the ice with an individual, you will definitely have more opportunities for meaningful dialogue.

  • Bet at your energetic best during conferences. Remember that this is a gathering of people that matter in your industry and this is an opportunity that you may never get again. Try to leave a lasting impression by being at your professional best at all times.

Some small tips that you could watch out for include avoiding too much alcohol during cocktail gatherings. Very often due to the presence of colleagues and acquaintances, one can be tempted to down a few extra.
Target hitting the bed early to avoid fatigue and sleeplessness. Consume lots of water and eat carefully to avoid falling ill.

Avoid rapid highs and lows often caused by excess intake of energy drinks, caffeine and sugar. Maintain your usual routine to avoid any drastic variances. In case you feel you need a boost try going for a walk or consuming green tea.

  • Finally do the right thing after the conference, once you get back to your routine. After you have taken all the efforts to make new contacts and build bridges with others, think of ways to sustain them. Probably follow up with a Linkedin invite with a personalised note. If you have exchanged cards, send an email with your contact info and tell them that you were happy to meet them at the event. Better still if the person is from your city, plan a catch up again sometime.

However, one of my favourite recommendations to leave a lasting impact of your event participation is to write an article or a blog post of your experiences. You can then tag all other co-attendees and also share it through your networks.

About the Author

Priyan DC is the CEO of Star Squared PR, a fast-growing boutique PR consultancy. The company has been recognized for its contributions in PR with their work for a cross section of industries. He is a familiar face today in the PR industry in India and provides counsel to companies in areas ranging from crisis management, communication planning, media planning, media training, campaign management, etc.