22 Tips for Attending a Conference (Part 1 of 2)

How to maximize your conference attendance.

Conference season is well underway. It’s exciting and energizing to gather with your peers. You’ll get updates on industry developments and network with colleagues, plus meet with clients and referral sources. You may also pick up some nifty swag from exhibitors.

Prepare in advance to meet the people attending the sessions. Think also about how you will engage in conversation with them to cultivate a mutually beneficial relationship; your goal is to share information about the industry and also make referrals in a two-way process.

Click to request an e-book with 25 tips.

Before the Conference

  1. Consult the membership directory to identify the members who align with your business or are potential referral sources. Look also for members who are in your state. Email them casually to say you look forward to meeting them. Perhaps women will mention that they will wear a colored jacket (NOT black or navy), while men will sport a distinctive colored tie or pocket square. Mentioning your attire helps you stand out in the crowd, so your new contacts can easily find you.
  2. Have an ample supply of business cards .
  3. If you have a small branded giveaway item, bring plenty along. A pen with your company’s name is universally useful. I have a business-card-sized list of tips for a phone interview with a reporter, which includes my contact details and website URL, plus a QR code to subscribe to this newsletter.
  4. Place an auto-reply on your email stating that you are at a conference and will not be checking email until late in the day.
  5. Practice your elevator pitches: one for general audiences and another for specific target markets.
  6. Contact the panelists. Mention that you are very interested in their presentation. Offer to ask a question, perhaps on a related topic that they want to address, but may not be able to cover in their remarks.

During the Conference

  1. Do not check email during the lull between sessions. Talk to the person next to you.
  2. Turn off your cell phone.
  3. At breakfast, sit with attendees you already know. Get the lowdown on what they’ve been up to since your last conversation.
  4. While listening to the speakers, take notes. Write two action-oriented steps you will take. Plan to contact the panelists by email in a few days with a congratulatory note, indicating your takeaways from their discussion.
  5. At lunch, sit with attendees you don’t know. It’s time to expand your network.
  6. As you chat with other attendees, write a note on their business cards about your conversation. For example, did you offer to make an introduction to a colleague or send an article? If they did not give you their business card, make a note on one of yours so you can contact them later.
  7. There probably will be a scheduled networking session. What’s your favorite question to learn about other people, the clients they work with or their personal interests? Maybe you will ask others what they have learned so far at the conference, plus which action steps they will take.
  8. Use your cellphone to take some selfie photographs with other attendees and snap shots of small groups.
  9. This Month’s Tip

    Have fun at the conference. You traveled quite a distance and paid for a hotel stay to attend this meeting. Follow some or all of these tips to make the most of this event — and the next one.


    Get ready in advance of the next conference. Contact me at  Janet@JanetLFalk.com, set an appointment here or call me at 212.677.5770. Together we’ll assemble your business cards and giveaway item. We’ll peruse the directory, identify members of interest and contact colleagues to alert them that you are eager to speak with them at the conference.

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    (This discussion has been lightly edited for updated content.)