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Baillee Furst is an Administrative and Communications Intern at Your Clear Next Step. She helps with our outreach to young professionals through her writing for our website. Outside of this, she helps with final proofing and data analysis. Baillee is a sophomore at Simpson College, majoring in English and Public relations.
5 things to do as a first-timer at a conference
It’s conference season, everyone!
What do you think of when you hear ‘conference?’ When I hear it, I picture a big room of people all dressed the same, listening to one speaker all day long. The kind of thing we’re forced to listen to during high school for ‘special assemblies.’ Yawn. This, however, is not true at all. Especially when regarding something like the Small Business Summit happening this November.
The room is ACTUALLY full of individuals, each with their own unique perspective and wardrobe. But one thing all of them have in common is their desire to learn. And they do this, through some speakers, yes, but also through networking and interacting. They move around around from booth to booth, session to sessions, taking new information with them as they go. And on average, said conference is over in just a few hours. This picture doesn’t appear nearly as bad.
But just attending a conference can be a scary thought, even after changing your mindset. Here are five things to do to get the most out of the conference you’re attending.
1. Plan Ahead
Most every conference has an itinerary available to look at beforehand. This should have a list of speakers and different sessions you can attend. It also might have a list of businesses that have said they plan to attend. Through this, you can plan what you want to learn and whom you want to connect with.
Planning ahead connects really well with networking. At conferences, it’s easy to strategize the kind of people, or exactly who, you want to meet. It’s also very easy to make unexpected connections. Either way, make sure to meet as many people as possible, take advantage of the amount of people you’ll be surrounded by. We here at YCNS offer a core set of networking tips. These are to go in with a goal; exchange info; and have a follow-up plan. Remembering these three steps, and planning them out before hand, can really give you a leg up when it’s conference time.
3. Market Yourself
You need to properly market yourself in order to network properly. The building block of this is business cards. Business cards, business cards, business cards. Take as many to a conference as you can, make sure they look good, and hand out as many as possible. One tip we offer is to slip 5-6 cards in your name badge so you’ve always got a couple at-the-ready. You never know who will take one and contact you later. Marketing yourself also includes how you’re dressed, your body language, and the words coming out of your mouth. Above all, remember one thing- act professional. This includes listening before you speak, asking questions to engage others, and demonstrating the professionalism that shows you’re ready for your next promotion.
4. Incorporate Social Media
My social media arsenal includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linked-In. There are plenty of others out there, but these are the four pillars for events like conferences. Make sure to take plenty of pictures and post them to all of your platforms. Twitter is also good to broadcast the different sessions you’ve attended, people you’ve heard speak, or simply someone you’ve met. Shout outs to great speakers sends a positive message that you’re listening and learning. Posting things like these let’s your followers know what’s happening in your life, and also gives opportunity for others at a conference with you to find and connect with you.
5. Follow-up After
It’s post conference, and you have more to do then simply try and apply what you’ve learned towards your career. You need to make sure to follow-up with the people you’ve met. Linked-In is your best friend in this respect. Look up and request to connect with your new colleagues. You can also go the extra mile, and refer back to these business cards you collected while at your conference. Use this to contact people directly, preferably by email. If you really want to make a lasting impression with someone who shared their contact info – a hand-written follow-up note can go a long way!