8 Ways to Prepare for a Tech Conference
In less than one week I am headed to Collision, a tech conference in Las Vegas from May 5th-6th. Sometimes attending a large tech conference can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never been to one before. I, like many others, will attend to promote the startup that I work for. Whether it’s meeting investors, industry executives, or other entrepreneurs who are there for similar reasons as you, conferences can be overwhelming. However, if done right, attending can be a productive and effective way of getting your name and your brand out there. Having had the experience of attending numerous conferences in the past, I am happy to share my tips and tricks for making the most out of your time there, while also having fun!
1. Make sure you have your business cards or an alternate way to store your contacts.
You’ll be handing out a bunch of business cards during these events. More important than giving them away, however, is keeping track of the ones you receive. Most people just toss the cards and don’t follow up with the connections they make. Make a note with a pen on the person’s card a little note that will make you remember what you talked about, so that you have something specific when you follow up via email after the conference.You can even exchange contact information more directly by using one of several apps out there that lets you keep track of all your new contacts. Check out a review of some apps here. Using an app means that you don’t have to carry around cards and endanger losing them.
2. It’s all about quality, not quantity.
Try to make meaningful connections with a smaller number of people, rather than meeting a bunch of people and trying to hand out as many cards as possible. Conferences are large, and there will always be someone you wish you had met, but the important thing is to be attentive to everyone you speak with. If someone knows you’re just trying to meet them and leave the conversation quickly, that person will lose interest and you’ve lost meaningful contact.
3. Plan your schedule a few days before the conference.
Pre-conference planning is sometimes really helpful as you navigate the workshops and presentations you’ll prefer to attend. But, also prepare to go with the flow: see point #7.
4. As you plan your schedule, get in touch with people before the conference.
By contacting the person you want to meet fore the event, you’re more likely to succeed in setting up a casual meeting during the conference. This is especially important if that person will be speaking or organizing a panel and will be distracted by other attendees wanting to get their attention.
5. Meet the speaker before they get on stage, not after.
If you are unable to contact someone before the conference, but you still want some one-on-one time, research that speaker and try to find them before they go on stage. Once they’ve had their 15 minutes of fame on stage, it becomes much harder to have any meaningful connection. This one is bit tricky, but sometimes when you know what they look like, you may be able to catch them while they wait to present.
6. Keep your distance from your phone.
This may be hard for tech conference attendees, but it’s important to keep your eyes and ears open. Keep your head up and try to only use your phone when you’re connecting online with someone you’ve just met. And to that end, make sure to follow up with your new contact a couple of days after the conference.
7. Go with the flow.
You might have a list of 30 people you’d like to meet throughout the day and get frustrated if you don’t get the chance to speak to all of them. It always happens, and that’s totally okay! Go with the flow, and you may have a chance encounter with someone you never thought you would meet. In a similar vein, be sure to talk to people who aren’t in the same industry as you. Challenge yourself by not taking the safe route and circling around the same group of people.
8. Share your experience with your coworkers.
Once you return it’s a great idea to show your colleagues and your boss what you’ve learned by creating a brief report. Or share your thoughts on a blog – you’ll see me writing a post about Collision on Women’s iLab in a couple of weeks!