How To Maximize Your Conference Experience

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(By Scott Carson) It’s podcast and marketing convention season and with the wave of events growing each year and attendance increasing at most events, it is important to have your game plan together to maximize your exposure and get the biggest bang for your buck when attending these events. When you add in the cost of a ticket to attend, travel costs, hotel rooms and other costs associated with showing up, you want to make sure that you get the highest return on investment for your time and money. It seems like the events get more and more expensive and as I’ve attended dozens and dozens of events over the years, I’ve put together three key rules that I implement to make sure that I walk away with value and not just lighter in my wallet.

Pre-Plan Your Schedule. I’m a big believer that some of the best relationships, tips and tools have come from making sure that I show up and stay the entire time to an event. I spend time looking at the schedule of the event well in advance to plan my time sitting in a chair learning versus walking the vendor booths and planning some time for networking. I try to find a friend who also might be attending and find out what sessions they are interested in and we divide and conquer if I’m torn between two sessions. I try to sit either close or next to the speakers so that I can use Rev.com to record the sessions on my phone and have a transcript in my inbox the next day. I also take time between sessions and before the speakers start to do some quick networking around me. It should come as no surprise that you have a lot in common in some sort of fashion with the people sitting around you. Put down your phone and grab a business card or two and make some new friends! We are all one new relationship or connection away from something big happening and you never know who you are sitting next to! Show up early and stay until the end if you can. You never know what nugget or trick that you’ll miss from arriving late or leaving an event early!

Work the Vendor Area. I’m a big believer that the real gold at an event is in the vendor area. These vendors are looking to help you with your business and they’ve often dropped substantial money to travel and sponsor a booth. I try to make sure that I visit each booth at least once or twice to grab a card. Oftentimes if you are struggling with something or in need of a tool, I’ve gotten the best recommendations from one vendor referring me to another one. You also never know when you’ll need to use their product or have a referral for them. If your podcast falls in line with what the vendor is offering, they may make a great guest, sponsor, or have an affiliate relationship that can be a win-win and help you monetize your show and time. Most will offer up some sort of event special or discount that you won’t normally see and can be a great way to test-drive or sign up for their product or service. Also, the vendor area is a great way to identify some create marketing strategies, swag, or images to drive people to their booths. Some of my best marketing ideas I’ve borrowed and made my own. Hey, isn’t imitation the purest form of flattery?

Connect with the Speakers. This is probably the most important part of attending an event. If I’m going to spend 30 to 60 minutes sitting in a session listening to a speaker, I’m going to try to follow them online or on their social networks (especially if I’m loving their content). I’ve found that if I take a photo of them on stage and then tag them or send it to them, it opens the opportunity for conversations later. They might not always have someone there taking their event or photos of the event might not be released until later. The speakers are also often the type of guests that you’ll want to add to your podcast or people that you want to network with after the event. Make sure to have one to two highlights from their sessions so that they know you were really listening besides the usual “Great Session” that most people give. By taking the extra thirty seconds to connect, send a photo and share some feedback, it’s helped me build some friendships and opportunities at future events or an awesome referral source when I had some questions or was looking for answers to a problem that I was facing. Speakers enjoy feedback and want to connect as well but may not have the time immediately before or after their sessions due to time constraints. By doing just a bit extra than what most people are doing, I’ve gotten some great one on one time after the event and coaching that has helped me immensely that I wouldn’t have gotten if I was just sitting on my butt staring at my phone (like most people do at events).

There are some amazing events to attend on the calendar with Podcast Movement (two events), Podfest Multimedia Expo, Traffic & Conversion Summit, Social Media World and everything else that’s available to us. Treat these events as opportunities to springboard to success and growth with your podcast and shows. Taking the extra time to maximize your experience and networking can help you do make the most out of these events and separate yourself from the rest of the herd doing the bare minimum to get by.

If you’ve got a favorite event trick or tool that you like to use when attending conferences, I’d love to hear it! Feel free to reach out and connect as well with me and I look forward to seeing you at the next event.

Here’s a video from Scott about this column

Scott Carson is the host of the Note Closers Show Podcast. He can be reached at scott@weclosenotes.com

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