Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tips on Attending a Conference or Trade Show

Depending on what your job duties entail, you may be asked to attend a training conference or trade show. I went to an unconference back in August. These events are great for networking, getting new ideas and learning new tricks of the trade. So how do you get the most out of these events?

Plan Ahead
This can be difficult. For me, I went on a Friday which meant I had to get everything done before and Friday usually is our busiest day. But pick out a goal or two that you want to accomplish. Maybe it's making 2-3 key contacts, maybe it's to find a cheaper product or solution for your business, or a specific topic you'd like to learn more about. Think about any vendors or customers that you might want to make an appointment with during the event and set those up as well.

The Logistics
Usually trade shows offer discounts for hotels via the event website or other media. You'll probably want to book your reservations early and close to where the conference or event is being held. If you have contacts who live near where you're going, ask them to help you with the best places to stay for cost efficiency and quality. Wear comfortable shoes (some events you do a lot of walking), wear casual business attire, bring a paper and pen or your laptop to keep notes from talks or to keep track of purchases. Don't forget business cards either! Gather information about the city you're staying in! During your down time, take advantage of exploring a new city.

During the Event
Introduce yourself to others, pass out business cards and network! It's amazing what the power of networking can do. Don’t worry about excusing yourself from a conversation if you're not interested in doing business with a vendor or someone you meet. Keep in mind your goals! If you can, attend a session that's a little off topic. This might help get you thinking differently about a topic. Stay realistic and ask questions. Sometimes speakers can hype up a topic so think practically and relate it to your job. Most sessions have a question and answer period. If you're confused about something or want to ask about your situation do so. Others in the room might approach you later with similar situations or offer help. If you'd rather not ask your question within a larger group, approach the speaker and ask them after the session or make an appointment to discuss your issue later. Take notes on vendors or talks you hear.

Look at a few things you learned and try and apply them to your workplace. Right after the conference write out and/or organize your notes. If you're like me and take very random notes, 3 months later I have no idea what I was writing the note about. So right after the conference, you'll want to organize what you learned. Evaluate the benefit of attending and follow up with people you made contact with.

In Terms of Your Job Search
If you're a job seeker or looking to get into the industry, trade shows or conferences can be a great way to not only increase your knowledge of a particular field but also gain contacts that can help you find employment! While sometimes these events can be costly, sometimes there are grants or scholorships that attendees can apply for. Ask the event organizers about scholorship opportunities.

About.com: Maximize Your Trade Show Time
5 Gen-Y Tips for Going to a Work Conference
- Rosie Reilman

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