You know the feeling, you’re at a big event (say HOW Design Live) and you end up speaking to someone who has just attended The Most Amazing Session of Her Life and you think to yourself, “How the heck did I miss that on this complex 15-page, foldout schedule?”
While every multi-track event isn’t as big as HOW (or SXSW for that matter) there are a multitude of obstacles—from jet lag to fear of starting conversations with strangers—that can keep you from truly maximizing the time, and money, spent on an event or tradeshow.
1. Schedule Ahead of Time
Check out the conference schedule or agenda well in advance, especially if it’s a massive multi-track conference. Put your sessions in your calendar, so you don’t have to be constantly trying to locate the paper schedule. While you’re at it, don’t forget to book time for your lunch!
2. Book Early
Plane reservations should be booked far in advance. Unless it’s a holiday, the ideal window is 54 days before you travel, that’s according to a CheapAir.com who studied over 4 million flights in 2014. For a hotel, check your conference info before heading over to Expedia, they may have already negotiated a lower rate for rooms. The sooner you accomplish these, the sooner you can get onto all your other plans. Like your plan to....
3. Network Before the Conference Begins
Check around with your peers to see if they’re attending. If they are, go ahead and book a dinner or lunch with them now. Also use social media before you go. Use the event hashtag to see who else might be going, then engage with them. Meeting “new” people online first will take the edge off your first “real” meeting.
4. Keep Your Phone Alive
Bring a backup battery, because a dead phone is really the last thing you want to deal with.
5. Don’t Forget Lip Balm
Pat calls this his number one tip. If you’ve ever been at a weeklong event, you’ll understand his wisdom. Also, don’t forget breath mints and gum!
6. Don’t Waste Business Cards
Pat believes you should wait until you’ve had your conversation before you hand over your business card, as a sort of last impression. Extra points if you deliver it in style!
7. Don’t Waste First Impressions
Make sure you’re dressed appropriately. A 2009 study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that factors ranging from clothing style to posture play a role in how impressions are formed. Which also means you should SMILE!
8. Be Sure to Hydrate
You’re going to be chatting a lot and, eventually, they are going to be serving alcoholic beverages. You don’t want to miss tomorrow’s presentations because you’re hungover, right? Be sure to eat and drink water before the parties start.
9. Don’t Be Afraid to Start a Conversation
Meeting new people should be one of the primary objectives for attending an event. Though it can be difficult, gain a little confidence by starting off easy: just begin talking to whoever is sitting right next to you before a presentation begins. It’s as easy as saying, “Have you ever seen this speaker before?”
10. Stop Trying to Be Interesting and Be Interested
If you’re an extrovert, make sure your conversations aren’t all about you. Don’t pitch, pitch, pitch. Listen to what other people are doing, get interested in what they’re passionate about and they’ll return the favor when listening to you.