Meetings, conventions, conferences and trade shows are the market leaders of the event industry in the 21st century. The US alone accounts for 1.8 million business meetings, conferences, trade shows etc. with more than 205 million attendees.
Being a part of any corporate industry in the world, you too must have noticed and attended many local, national or even global conferences and events of your industry. But despite these numbers, most attendees often fail to answer one simple question:
What long-term benefits did you gain from attending a conference?
Google search ‘Benefits of attending conferences’ and you will come across no less than a 100 of them. But how many of those benefits do you actually find applicable in your case?
Attending a large-scale conference is no big deal. Your contact and your company’s extended networks would help you find an entry in many extravagant events. But in order to ensure that you actually yield something out of it, you need preparations. Let us understand where to begin with for these preparations.
Understanding the Achievable
Before beginning the preparations, jot down the answer to this question:
What do you aim to achieve from attending a professional event?
Go on with this blog if your list somewhat matches to this one.
Now that we have on hand our requirements and the achievable benefits, we can begin with the preparations.
Expand your knowledge horizons
While the books and blogs you read have an enormous amount of knowledge, learning things from your industry speakers and influencers is a totally different thing. Not only do you get to find out the deeper insights of the industry, you also get to learn about the recent trends, technologies and innovations in the industry. But the question remains, how to retain their deliverables for a long time?
A recent survey says that the amount of information received by a person every day is equivalent to reading 174 newspapers daily. Adding to it, you have the information given by these conference speakers. Such information overdose prevents you from perceiving more than 80% of what is received.
Thus, if you want to actually yield something out of what those speakers said in the last event, manage the information you receive. A few simple steps would help you do this.
Use audio/video recorders or simply take down digital notes to record the information received. Store them and keep the accessible. Once you have all the delivered information available, you can decide which things make sense to you and which ones don’t. Plus, this will help you have a revision of the information long-time after the event. All you need to do is go back to your records!
Every event would have a number of talks and presentations. It is humanly impossible and practically a waste to attend every single one of these. That is why, it is crucial that before going to the event, go through the sessions’ details and filter out the sessions which would be useful for you. Get the details of the speakers and analyse the usefulness of the session for you. This way, you would save your time by skipping the unnecessary ones.
Industry leaders function as the speakers of professional events. This is the reason the speakers are masters in the field.
While attending their presentations, feel free to interact with them and come up with questions. Not only during the presentation, you can continue the conversation after it as well. This will not only help you learn but also network with these pioneers.
Never limit yourself to the discussions taking place in the event. Bring out your learning and use the information to have other discussions as well. Interact with your office colleagues or other peers and understand the topic way better.
Build long-term business networks
Though learning is a benefit of attending professional events, it is the secondary goal of most of the attendees. The primary goal, however, is to build a network. Meeting people from various domains of your industry can help you build crucial long-term relationships for your professional life.
These networks can help you grow your clientele, find you new sponsors or just help you in various parts of your business. However, you need to strategize your networking beforehand in order to build only useful contacts. After all, you don’t want to waste your time with people totally unrelated to your industry and business.
The Mere Exposure Effect
Familiarity principle or what psychologists call the ‘mere exposure effect’ is a very efficient method of networking at professional events. This principle says that when exposed to a person, idea or thing repeatedly, our inclination towards it increases and we find it more preferable. You can use this principle efficiently to build useful networks at your next professional event. How? Let’s see:
Before introducing yourself and making use of the familiarity principle, you need some preparations.
First of all, recognise the people you wish to build contacts with. There are going to be a lot of fellow attendees and speakers. Building contacts with all of them are not possible. That is why it is essential to filter out the relevant people.
The networking platform of the event can help you with this. Use this platform to know other attendees and the speakers of the event. Find the industries they belong to and understand if their contact can help you. Shortlist the people you wish to network with and learn more about them in detail.
Now that you know the people, it is time to interact and execute the principle we discussed.
Begin this process before the event. Create small relevant surveys or polls on the event’s networking platform. Ask questions from the speakers which might be useful to other attendees as well. Or simply strike up a discussion on a significant topic. This will help other attendees recognise you. Post the surveys, you can decipher the implications of the poll/survey results and share it with the fellow attendees.
Such knowledge distribution would play the role of the second trigger in the familiarisation process. It will not only help you get recognised but also give you some perspective about your fellow attendees. It will help you build a positive reputation for yourself and other attendees would look up to your knowledge and findings.
After having these conversations and discussions, you have now become known to other attendees. You can also use the networking platform to set up meetings with attendees you find important. Your pre-established recognition would help you set up these meetings easily.
Sidestep the Bummers
Even after all such preparations, you can still end up with no or minimal results. Everything discussed for networking till now is the preparatory stage. The actual results are gained post the meetings you have. There are a lot of mistakes you can create in these meeting. Make sure to sidestep them.
1. Network with a plan — Don’t just go on networking with people from your industry. Ensure to filter out the people before you being networking. If not, you might end up in a meeting without any goal at all.2. Get the details — In order to understand the mutual benefits that you and your potential network can provide, you need to know them. Find out the details of their business and understand how you can be helpful to each other.3. Define the purpose — Once you choose your networks, define the purpose of the meeting to yourself and to them as well. This includes things like why do you wish to network with them or what benefits can they yield from this meeting.4. Be ready with the content — Have some topics in mind and ensure that you are reaching the meeting with your content ready. Though it might not be a meeting where you are presenting something, given the fact that you have approached them, you need something to work upon. You can either have mutual ideas to share or you can brief them with your business model and ask them for the support that you require from them.
Networking and learning are two very broad domains of benefits of attending events. But apart from these, there are many other benefits as well of attending professional events if you go there with a holistic overview.
In order to ensure to make the most of an event, just clearly define your goals and motives behind attending these events. Once you are clear with that, you can prepare accordingly and make sure that another event attended won’t be in vain.
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