It’s Survival of the Fittest and Most Prepared at Convention Time

How do you get the best out of industry conventions? Perhaps you are one of those people who like to wing-it at a convention---let things happen as they come, but if you stop to think about it, preparation is key to meeting your goals at a convention. With convention season in full swing, this month’s Market Smart concentrates on some key preparations you can make to not only survive the convention, but also succeed with your goals.
What to do Before You Leave

Make a plan to follow while at the convention. Take time to study the agenda and highlight the sessions that are important to you and your company, and include the important keynote addresses. Decide what you what to achieve and highlight those sessions. Consider both the information presented and the speaker. Usually provided in your packet is a map of the convention set-up, locate where your sessions are, and plan a strategy for your days. You’ll save time and energy and be more productive. Be sure to strategize with your boss and co-workers to determine important people to see and contacts to make while attending the event.
What to Pack
Even if the convention appears to be a casual affair, you’ll still want to look good. When you come in contact with clients that you currently work with or want to work with, looking your best will give you confidence and help to make a good impression. Pack both business and casual outfits that are sharp and neat, and bring enough to last as many days as the conference. Bring shoes that look good, but are also comfortable enough to get you through a day of walking. Be sure to pack workout wear too. The majority of convention resorts have fitness facilities. Conventions can be tiring and stressful---squeezing in a workout or two will reduce stress and keep energy levels up.

Checking In

Register as soon as you get there so you don’t waste valuable time standing in a line. Take your plan and your map and walk through the convention area to familiarize yourself with the convention areas. Find where the sessions you want to attend are held and where the people you want to meet, or where customers to connect with can be found. And of course find out where the parties are.
Stay Healthy
Keep calm, maintain energy and stay healthy by getting enough sleep and eating nutritious foods. You may be tempted to stay up late at parties and events, and partake of the many food and drink offerings, but often conventions last several days. Getting a good night’s sleep and sticking to a healthy energy-sustaining diet will help you to function better and get much more out of the convention.

Upon Return
Your job is not done when the convention ends. When you return home, you’ve still got work to do. You’ve undoubtedly gained new information and insights from the conference to share with your boss and teammates. It’s a good idea to be prepared to meet with them and present the valuable information that is beneficial to your company. Your boss will feel he made a good investment in sending you to the conference, and your teammates will see you as the professional that you are.   (These suggestions apply even if YOU are the boss).

If you’ve made important new contacts, it’s best to follow-up right away. Send a personal message to the contact while you’re still fresh in their minds, or a LinkedIn request with a personal note to remind them of your discussion. If it’s appropriate, set up future meetings.

Conferences are perfect places to educate yourself on the latest industry information. They offer many opportunities for gaining knowledge, making contacts and enhancing professionalism. They are also fun. Socializing with your industry counterparts at convention parties and special events increases connections, friendships and awareness of you and your company.