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Tips for Attending an Industry Conference

Last week I was in Charlotte, N.C. Today I'm in Orlando, Fla., and tomorrow in Chicago. I have been speaking at a variety of industry trade shows delivering keynote programs, educational breakout sessions and general networking opportunities.

As I sit in the lobby of this very nice hotel, I can view 15 or so people watching a soccer game, a few others holding one-on-one meetings and other folks seemingly wandering the hallways or even walking outside by the pool. It's 1:45 p.m. There are education breakout sessions going on and the Exhibit Expo is open. Why are so many people wasting this opportunity? They have invested time and money to fly here and yet I see this at the 20 or so trade shows I attend each year.

There are plenty of reasons to believe that attending trade shows or association events is fun and exciting -- because it is! However, to maximize your investment and opportunities you need to work these events. Here are a few action items for you to do before, during and after any event.

  1. Identify and know your top four business challenges and use the time to look for answers -- in the breakout sessions, hallway conversations and at the bar.

  2. Plot your program strategy for your entire week, not on a day-to-day basis.

  3. Plan to attend only four breakout sessions a day to avoid burn out.

  4. Understand your transportation from the hotel to convention center. Use the shuttles between the convention center and hotels and pack your daily bags accordingly.

  5. At the end of each day do a daily recap of notes, thoughts and action lists.

  6. After the show, create a priority list of actions. Share it with your team and assign tasks and due dates. Manage it!

  7. Within two weeks, review all the breakout presentation PowerPoints that you missed and review all the breakout materials from the sessions that you attended. Many events post the PowerPoint presentations on a central site.

  8. Contact the presenters for additional information and visit their Web sites for other information that may be available.

Normally everyone does a Top 10 list. I got only to eight. What are your ideas to improve your time at these very important events? Let me know [email protected] or leave a comment below.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on June 11, 2012