Small Business Advice:
Make the most of those business conferences
Attending conferences is important not only for the knowledge you gather, but possibly even more so for the people that you meet.
To maximize those benefits, you must plan how to attend any conference. If you should feel that a conference was not worthwhile, chances are you may not have spent enough time planning a strategy to make it a successful event.
The strategy that seems to be the most effective is thinking of the conference as having two parts. The first part is the networking and the second part is the education component. Each part requires a distinctly different strategy.
The networking requires that you think carefully of whom you want to meet and spend some time with. Frequently, the conference organizer will give you a list of the people planning on attending. From this list you need to cull out five or six names, then send them emails about two weeks before the event to set up times to meet.
While you may not be able to meet all six because of scheduling, by doing this ahead of time you will improve your chances of meeting with the majority of these folks.
Another thing to do is to attend any golf or tennis tournaments before the meeting that are part of the conference. These are great ways to meet new people who could have potential benefits to you and your company.
Handing out a trillion business cards is not really as productive as trying to get cards from people who might be able to add value to you or your business. Try to meet three or four strangers at conferences and get to know them better.
For starters, ask them, “What made you get into the business you are in?” or “ How would I know how to recommend someone to your company?” Try to go out of your way to meet and really get acquainted with people you don’t know.
With education, do a thorough analysis of session topics and speakers that you would like to attend. Try to set up meetings with some of the speakers if you would like to know about their topic(s). Most speakers are more than willing to make time for these “short” meetings.
If, however, there are no good sessions, then use your time to network. There will always be people around the coffee and food you can talk to.
One last thing about conferences is to avoid drinking if you can. Too often people do things they regret that affect both them and their company when they consume too much alcohol.
Now go out make sure you have a plan developed for each conference that you or staff attends.
You can do this!
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Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an Amazon.com bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.