Conferences after COVID: Five Tips for Success
Frequent attendees of conferences and workshops will agree: getting back into the field after two years of social distancing is a difficult task. There are rules to remember and ways to network and connect that we may have forgotten. Like any skill, conferencing is one that must be practiced to stay fresh.
Attending your first conference after a few years of being apart, or in a new professional field—or even your first conference ever—can be daunting. Here are our five best tips to help make your conference experience a success:
1. Prepare an Elevator Pitch
You will be expected to introduce yourself repeatedly throughout the conference. Quickly following your name, you may be encouraged to share your agency or the type of work you do. Do you have a buzzy response to that question? Without adequate preparation, your answer may fall a bit flat. Make sure to write out a strong 30-second elevator pitch beforehand, and be sure to include your role, organization, and a few key points that speak to your niche in the field. Practice your elevator pitch forward and backward to ensure you’re ready to impress, no matter to whom you’re introducing yourself.
2. Keep Your Business Cards in Hand
Do you make a practice of swapping business cards with new potential connections? Make sure to stock up on business cards in advance. If you’re trying to impress, jot down a personal phone number on the card to ensure they hang on to it. Another way to guarantee they hang on to your information in the digital age is to set up a QR code going directly to your website or, if you don’t have one, to your LinkedIn. LinkedIn even boasts a built-in QR code feature—this will help you create the fastest connection possible. To make sure you can connect with everyone no matter their preferences, keep both business cards and your QR code on hand to share information, make connections, and build your network.
3. Share Your Experience
Maybe your organization only sent a few people to the conference, but the broader team could benefit from the knowledge you gained. While you’re attending the conference, make sure to take lots of notes. Then go ahead and share your top-three takeaways. This reinforces your learning, and it shows your leadership they made a good investment in sending you to the conference. Sharing your experience and knowledge could look like a short presentation or slide deck you present to your team; it could also be an email with a list of the top tips you learned. Either way, you can maximize the benefits of going to the conference across an entire group of people.
Collecting business cards for the sake of collecting doesn’t serve you. You need to connect with those interesting folks: reach out with a quick message shortly after the conference, reintroduce yourself (“Hello, I’m X. We met at Y conference”), and engage them in conversation through private messages or through engaging with their professional LinkedIn presence. It’s important to keep the conversation going on what you have in common, and what you learned at the conference to strengthen those connections to truly build a network you can rely on.
5. Be Present
You can’t share yourself if you’re not present. If you’re distracted by how uncomfortable your shoes are or how you’re too cold in the conference center, or if you’re checking back in with work on your phone or laptop constantly, you’re not engaging with the people around you. To ensure you’re making the best impressions and allowing others to get to know you, make sure you’re dressed for the occasion in comfortable shoes, have layers to keep warm, and keep your phone tucked away. Be open to new conversations and connections!
If you’re at a conference, visit us—Management Concepts has a presence at many conferences throughout the year, and the booth is staffed by team members who can answer questions on existing offerings or discuss what’s coming up next. You’re welcome to ask us about our courses, webinars, or custom learning solutions—we have anything you might need.
Still nervous about the prospect of an in-person conference? You can put your best foot forward by developing your self-awareness and interpersonal skills. Check out our course, Interpersonal Skills, to ensure you’re prepared for any situation, anywhere.