There are a number of benefits available to business owners who attend small business conferences and live events. The opportunities for learning, connecting and growing are simply hard to find anywhere else.
But attending a small business conference and getting the value from it takes preparation. Follow these tips to make the most out of the next conference you attend.
Plan in Advance
Not only do you need to prepare for being away from work by clearing your schedule, getting coverage and making travel arrangements, but you should also plan to take full advantage of the opportunities available during the conference.
Review the conference schedule and identify the sessions you want attend. This is a good way to make sure you don't miss the information that's most important to you.
Prior to a small business conference, it's also a good idea to research the event, including the purpose and goal of the conference, and who typically attends. If possible, try to make connections with other attendees and carve out time to meet up and network.
Pack Your Cards
So many small business conferences are going high-tech by offering attendees electronic devices for sharing contact information. These devices will sync data via bluetooth, right on the spot. While this is an excellent use of technology and can streamline the after-conference process for attendees, it's still a good idea to bring a healthy stack of business cards with you.
Handing out cards in addition to other connection tools provided at the conference gives you a chance to interact face-to-face with other attendees, leaves them a physical reminder of who you are, and is a great back-up in case an electronic device goes missing or is never uploaded after the conference.
Be Ready to Network
When you attend a live small business event, you should be ready to network. Networking, however, often puts small business owners out of their comfort zones. One way to overcome the anxiety around person-to-person networking is by creating and practicing an elevator pitch.
An elevator pitch is an introduction of who you are and what you do. It can take time to write an effective elevator pitch and deliver it expertly, so make sure you have time to practice your pitch before the event.
Be a Sponge
Most small business conferences have a lot of different things going on at the same time, and it can be challenging to focus. Make a deliberate effort to be present in the moment, and watch, listen and absorb everything going on.
You may want to take notes during sessions and while networking to capture the most important happenings and remind yourself of important notes after the event. You never know what nugget of information you glean at a small business conference will have the power to change your business.
When the event ends, the real connecting starts, so have a plan for following up after the conference. Identify the most important prospects you interacted with during the event, and schedule time to follow up with them personally within a few days of the conference while your meeting is still fresh in their minds.
Another part of following up is creating an action plan that will help you apply some of the lessons you learned immediately in your business. Take time to decompress after the event, review your notes and literature you collected, and make a list of the biggest takeaways. Then devise a plan based on SMART goals to implement new activities and goals in your business.