Attending a conference can be one of the greatest things you can do for your advisory firm. Not only do you get the “low-down” on industry trends, but can gain some new skills, make some new connections, and even find some solutions to your ongoing business problems.
It wasn’t too long ago we were writing a guide on How to Get the Most From a Virtual Conference because the pandemic—in its many forms—was still rearing its ugly head and keeping us all socially distanced. But lo and behold, the Summer of 2022 is upon us and conference season has arrived, most with in-person (or at least hybrid) offerings.
I am so excited that I am scheduled to speak personally at 10 conferences over the next few months. So, in celebration (and preparation, of course), I’ve compiled this tried and true list of 6 things you can do to make the most of the conferences you are attending now that they are back in person again.
BEFORE THE CONFERENCE
1. Build Your Schedule
This is actually the same advice I would give for virtual or in-person conferences. Peruse the agenda and write a schedule of sessions you won’t want to miss. There will likely be an abundance of sessions to choose some. You may have to choose between two equally riveting sessions booked at the same time, while other times there might not be any sessions you are particularly interested in attending. In trying to select the best fit for your needs, ask yourself: “Which of these sessions speak to my most pressing pain points as an advisor/business owner/ etc.?”
And if you find yourself in a session that isn’t meeting expectations, don’t hesitate to move out and onto the next one. Making the most of a conference is all about using your time wisely to really wring the juice out of all it has to offer.
2. Decide How You’ll Keep Track of Notes and Contacts
With days chock full of sessions, information, resources, excitement, and more new names than you’ll ever remember, you need to decide on a way to collect your notes and information in a way that makes it easy to access when you return to the office. Whether you’re a pen and paper kind of guy/gal or you plan to use your laptop, tablet, or smartphone, make a practice of writing down two things:
- The key takeaways from each session
- Any follow-ups you might want to pursue with the speakers
Writing these points down while they’re fresh in your mind will ensure you don’t lose track of the great ideas or opportunities presenting themselves to you in the moment. When you reread them, these notes should jog your memory and help you get the ball rolling once you’re back home.
AT THE CONFERENCE
3. Connect, Connect, Connect
The greatest part about being at an in-person conference is the ability to connect with one another in-person. Mine the speakers and other advisors for advice. Get the latest on what others are doing that’s working. And connect with vendors who can help solve your problems.
Don’t be afraid to approach the speakers! These are experts in your field (ahem! people you want to know), so don’t hesitate to ask questions, tell them how much you loved their presentation, or ask them to connect with you on social media—even if it means sticking around as the last person at a session to do so. Conferences are a pretty big commitment from a time and financial perspective, so you’ll want to make the most of your time and resources while you’re there.
4. Get Social
Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re thinking, “Isn’t this the same as the bullet point above?” Yes, and no. While I want you to be social and vocal during and in between sessions, I also want you to make a point to attend the conference’s social events. The type of conversations that flow can be a little different—more relaxed and less pressured. The more relaxed setting allows people to really open up and connect on a different level.
AFTER THE CONFERENCE
Now it’s time to go back to your notes and perform the follow-up you wrote down in your notes. After days of meeting new people, it’s likely you have an entirely new virtual rolodex of business cards, new social media contacts, and maybe even some new followers to your own social media pages. Within a week, send a personal follow-up to anyone you think you may want to do business with in the future or whose presentation you particularly enjoyed.
6. Share Your Experience with Your Clients through Social Media and Email
Clients and prospects love to see their advisors out and about “in the wild” learning, building, growing, and bettering their business. Plus, the conference gives you a great excuse to post pictures of yourself, which also boosts engagement on your social media pages. Tag the conference in any of your posts and use any conference hashtags they provided while you were there. This will ensure you connect with those you may have missed personally, continuing to build your network post-conference.
If you send out a newsletter, include some details about what you learned. Or, send an entire email sharing your experience. Your audience loves to see what you’re up to, and a conference is no exception.
In-Person Events are the GOAT
While virtual conferences have their place, in-person conferences are the GOAT when it comes to making connections, learning new skills, and really getting the most bang for your conference buck. There is just nothing quite as powerful as attending one in person. Plus, they typically involve some travel and maybe even some free food. On that note, my final piece of advice is this—invest in becoming TSA prechecked to save yourself some hassle at the airport. The smoother your trip, the more enjoyable the whole experience will be. So get out there, have fun, and wring every ounce of greatness from the conference that you can. You never know when they might be snatched from our grasp again.