You might have traveled for business before, but attending your first conference is a whole other ball game. Here are some tips on how to make sure you do it right.
1. Have a goal
Not everyone attends a conference for the same reason. Some simply want to network, while others are there to close deals. Know why you’re going and what you want to get out of it. This will help you prepare for the event, and prepare you must.
2. Know who’s coming and make appointments
Conferences usually have a list of attendees somewhere on their website and if they don’t, you can always contact the organization and ask if they could send you a copy. Conference days are full of events—industry talks, networking sessions, workshops—and people will be busy all the time. If there’s a company you absolutely want to talk to, make an appointment with them beforehand so that you don’t end up preparing for a meeting with someone who might not have time to see you.
3. Yes, prepare for your meetings
You know why you’re attending the conference, and you know whom you have to talk to in order to reach your conference goal. Now, prepare. Do research on the companies you’re meeting with and make sure you have your story ready. You might have meetings planned, but you’ll also bump into people unexpectedly or get introduced to someone who might just be the perfect business partner. In those cases, you need your elevator pitch—your two-minute summary of what you or your company is about. Make it something people will remember you by.
4. Dress smart
This doesn’t necessarily mean suit and tie. It means appropriate for the kind of conference you’re attending and also, always, comfortable. You’ll be standing up most of the time or taking notes in awkward positions. You might end up in an air-conditioned freezer or a subtropical sauna. Be prepared. And bring deodorant.
5. Know your way around
This goes for any conference, but especially abroad or any other unfamiliar city: research transportation options and the location of the conference hall before you leave. Will there be shuttles from the airport? What are the taxi fares? Do you know what subway line to take and how long you need to get from your hotel to the conference hall? Looking up these things beforehand can save you a lot of stress once you’re there, and who knows, they might even help you to squeeze in some sightseeing.
If you follow those five basic tips, you’ll rock your first conference.