If you’re planning to attend a conference in the near future, there is a lot to do to prepare. It takes more than bringing along some business cards and a notepad. Being organized will help reduce your stress and keep you focused on the speakers and the people you are meeting.
Here is a thorough checklist to help you get the most value from your time and the money you’ve invested. At the end of the article, you can download a PDF version.
Planning / Packing
- Download (or print) the conference agenda and material (if available before you register.) Note: many conferences are using custom apps that include event agendas and the ability to build personal schedules. Find out if your conference offers this kind of app and download it.
- Make a list of the sessions you plan to attend and the people with whom you would like to meet.
- Finalize you elevator speech. You should be able to explain what you do in fewer than 30 seconds.
- Make sure you have plenty of business cards. If you’re running low get extras printed.
- Pack all the necessary power cords, batteries, adapters etc. Carry the charger with you to the conference sessions.
- Bring along a refillable water bottle. Keep it small so it fits in your bag.
- Check the weather. Not being prepared can be an added frustration.
- Pack your note-taking tools – digital and paper. (Tip: Sometimes I record the sessions and listen to them on the plane or train trip back home.)
- Make sure you have (and know) your travel itinerary, including transportation and accommodation.
- Bring along cash, even if you only plan on using debit or credit cards.
- Know the Twitter #hashtag for the conference and any discussion groups. Use this in all your tweets.
- Gum and mints are a must. Stale breath or having a bad taste in your mouth is highly unpleasant.
- Read up on industry news in relation to the event you’re attending, to understand what might be having an impact on the people with whom you’re mingling. You can keep the conversation meaningful, rather than just small talk.
- Use Twitter Search to check in on any of the speakers. You can determine if you want to follow them and have a conversation before the event.
- Add some post-dated social media updates.
- Back up your phone, laptop, tablet or any other device you’re bringing to the event. There’s always a chance something will get lost, stolen or damaged.
- Bring along your camera / video equipment if you’re considering making a video at the event or taking pictures.
- Check out your Linkedin contacts who live in the city of your conference. This might be a great time to meet them in person (not at the conference but for a coffee.)
- Remember to set you out-of-office notification on your email. Even if you’ll be checking you want to manage the expectations of your senders.
- Write blog articles that summarizes some of the sessions you attended.
- Input business cards into your customer relationship management tool.
- Follow your new contacts on Twitter and/or Linkedin (or other relevant social media channels.
- Send an email (or snail mail card) to your new contacts.
- Implement what you’ve learned. Start doing something different in your business or the way you work.
Your next step
Download your conference checklist and use it to make sure you’re prepared for your next conference. Add any other items that come to mind in the comments below and I’ll update this master checklist and repost it. Enjoy your conference!