This article covers conference tips that help you use conferences to achieve personal, professional, and business goals.
Benefits of attending conferences
There are a lot of potential benefits of attending conferences that go beyond the simple “network and learn from speakers.” Of course those are important, but there are other benefits that people don’t always consider.
Social media content from the conference
Trading notes on processes and tactics with people in your industry
Setting up initial meetings for business partnerships
Creating conference-specific content for a boost in visibility
Hearing about the latest tools being used in your industry
Connect with speakers and organizers to open up new opportunities
One great connection can lead to new job opportunities, partnerships, and content creation. One new idea, if it’s the right one, can change the way you approach all of your work.
1. Figure out what you want to get out of the event
What do you want to get out of the event?
Is the goal of the event to meet a lot of people?
A specific person?
Are you looking to set up a partnership of some sort for your company?
Are you looking for clients?
Are you primarily trying to learn from the speakers, and less concerned with networking?
2. Connect through pre-event social
The best tip for that is to use the hashtag or follow the conference’s socials - whether that is LinkedIn or Twitter.
Joining in the discussion can give you a sense of who will be there and what they want to talk about. Depending on the size of the conference, it might also lead to in-person conversation starters. “Oh you’re the one who was talking about XYZ on Twitter.”
3. Review the agenda and pick sessions in advance
You don’t want to be making decisions on the day of the conference. If you have clear objectives, it should be relatively straightforward to pick out the breakout sessions that interest you most. Reviewing the agenda and having a plan will also help you know which sessions you would be ok missing and which ones are a must-see.
4. Watch videos of the speakers
If you don’t know which sessions to attend then you can search the speakers online. Watching videos of the conference speakers before the conference accomplishes two things.
First, it helps you know whether you really want to listen to that speaker.
Talk titles give you some information, but sometimes a speaker takes an angle you weren’t expecting, and you lose interest. Watching in advance can avoid that.
Alternatively, you can also stalk their socials and see what their area of expertise is!
5. Make sure you have a way to collect contact information
You could connect with many people and companies through the use of business cards or QR codes that automatically take them to your LinkedIn.
You could write the names with relevant information on your notes app on your phone.
6. Follow up after the conference
You don’t want to have a great conversation and then never talk to someone again.
The point of a conference isn’t just to meet people—it’s to network with people. If you go to a conference with a networking goal in mind, you need to make sure that you stay in touch with people after the conference.
Your level of follow up depends on the kind of relationship you want to have with someone.
If you made an interesting connection you want to stay in touch with, but don’t see any immediate opportunities, a simple “it was great to meet you” email is enough.
It can also be a good idea to pass along an interesting piece of content based on something you discussed. If you’re interested in developing a closer relationship with someone, try to set up a phone call. Even 30 minutes of one-on-one time, outside of the conference context, can be enough to begin a lasting relationship.
7. Take pictures with other attendees for easy social media content
If you need content for social media, take a picture with the people you meet!
This is a super simple way to network and spread on social media. Tagging people in your posts increases the chance that they’ll share it, and people at the conference will be perusing the conference hashtags.
Everyone loves a good picture!
8. Wear something that stands out!
It might sound silly but whether it is a cool hat, or a t-shirt that is worth complimenting - you will have people approaching you just to talk to you about it. From there, the conversation will flow.
9. Have an elevator pitch ready
You’re going to get asked “what do you do” an average of 58 million times at any given conference. You want to make sure that you have a good answer.
It may be a 'test and trial' kind of thing. The more you talk to people, the more you will understand what interests people and keeps their attention. For example, When you add a qualifier to your elevator pitch (like “for a tech company,” or “that helps people do X”), you add a little hook for someone to latch onto—which makes it easier to move the conversation forward.
10. Prep some simple conversation starters
Most conversations are going to start about the conference itself—which is totally fine! Having a few of these in your pocket makes it easier to start conversations.
Here are a few tried-and-true conversation starters you can use:
What did you think of that last speaker?
Hi, I’m [your name]! I don’t think we’ve met yet.
How did you hear about this event/what made you decide to come?
What sessions are you thinking of going to? I thought [name of session] looked interesting.
Remember to have fun! Conferences are the best way to network and grow your presence.
If you are looking for a Scala conference/meet up/event to attend, go to the Event section.