Don't get me wrong, conferences can be a stellar way to learn, network, and grow business opportunities- but there are ways to do it all wrong. After working with thousands of conferences at Bizzabo, and attending hundreds of events, we saw too many professionals spending their time on the wrong things. Not scheduling meetings beforehand, sitting at the content stage the whole day, and letting yourself get pitched consistently are a few actions that can lead to a huge waste of time and money. Below are some of the most common and worst habits people have when attending conferences.
1. Not having a game plan- “Winging it” is not an option here. Be strategic about your time- pick the sessions you want to attend, and reach out in advance to other attendees you want to meet at the conference via the event’s networking platform or on social channels.
2. Arriving Fashionably Late- If anything, you should be arriving early-”fashion” be damned! Most attendees will be more eager and open to networking first thing in the morning. That’s exactly the time to find your conference buddy.
3. Attending all the sessions- Content may be king but that sure doesn’t mean it will all be 100% relevant to you. Plan ahead and pinpoint the sessions that will be the most valuable for you to attend. Often times, standing outside the session hall is the best place to be.
4. Talking to the wrong people for too long – I know, it can be hard to walk away from someone jabbering away about their “industry-disrupting” startup (whose name you can’t pronounce), but you must be able to put your foot down. Your time is your most valuable asset- so politely excuse yourself and walk away. Know how to say no.
5. Committing everything to memory- Take notes! Take notes on interesting sessions, take notes on people you want to follow-up with and, take notes on your notes (what?! :). Conferences tend to be an information overload, so make sure you don’t miss a beat or forget all of it later. If it’s important- write it down.
6. Leaving the conference to have lunch- It doesn’t matter if you have the most intense Chipotle craving of your life- lunchtime is valuable networking time and your chance to solidify the business relationships you started forming earlier that morning (because you got there early, right?).
7. Hanging out with your colleagues- It may be your first instinct to drift towards the people you already know at the conference, but standing in the corner gossiping will get you nowhere. Challenge each other to go out and make new connections. Don’t be shy – be social.
8. Staying in the same place- Even if you think you found your sweet spot in the front row of the auditorium or on the tradeshow floor, make sure you do at least one complete round of the venue so you don’t miss anything the conference has to offer. Who knows? Maybe one of the exhibitors is your next big partner.
9. Sitting in the back row during sessions- Since you should only attend the select few sessions you decided upon, make sure you soak up everything! Sit smack in the front row, take notes, and stay engaged. And put away your phone just this once.
10. Sending follow-up emails the following day- This is not a dating game, playing coy and hard to get will just lead to missed business opportunities. The best time to follow up is within 24 hours after the event ends, so seize your chance while you can! Plus, you can use those notes of yours to remember who to follow-up with.
So make the most of your conference experience by doing none of the above. I promise it will be worth your while ;)