Maximize Your Conference Experience

Maximize Your Conference Experience

The Do’s and Don’ts of attending a conference in 2021

2020 has been the year of unpredictability.  With Covid-19 bringing the world to a standstill, most businesses were able to shift by working remotely.  And while online solutions created a path for moving forward, one aspect for many businesses has remained on locked down – the in-person conference. Following the spread of the pandemic, most businesses opted for virtual events on Zoom and webinars, but some experiences can’t be replaced. Conferences afford attendees one essential component that you can’t receive online – networking (Top Tips For Maximizing Your Networking At a Conference).  

  • Networking allows for deeper first impressions.  Most attendees go to conferences as much for the opportunity to network as they do for the information shared. Networking is responsible for filling as many as 85% of all jobs. Other interesting networking statistics include:
  • 95% of people agree that better business relationships are built through in-person meetings.
  • 80% of professionals believe that career success can be increased through professional networking.

As 2021 approaches there is real anticipation that events, like industry conferences can go back into a convention center or hotel with caution and following appropriate guidelines. The good news is there will be in-person conferences next year. Pfizer has recently announced that early analysis of their vaccine is more than 90% effective, signaling new hope that a return to normalcy is on the horizon. Even with a vaccine, conferences will have a new look when they return.

“Organizers will have to look at measures that happen within the technical side,” says Rachel Parker, Director of Association of Event Venues, a major industry body in the UK.  AEV is a trade association representing the interests of UK and international event venues. “There may have to be a traffic light system at entry points,” Parker added.

Changes might include:

  • Utilizing systems like Sil.do, enabling users to submit questions through an online chat system
  •  Spacing out furniture
  • Replacing paper handouts with digital ones
  • Offering individually boxed lunches
  • Monitoring the density of conferences
  • Providing extra space for socially distanced networking

While the idea of traveling in a pandemic may still be intimidating, it may assist you with booking your flight in knowing the air on airplanes is filtered and circulated in a way that makes most viruses difficult to spread.  Most experts believe that in-person conferences are likely to return at the end of Q2 or early Q3, which provides plenty of time to plan and prepare and enables event organizers the time to put the proper safety measures in place.  You may not want to travel for a family gathering just yet, but a conference later in 2021 which combines personal and professional time, will be something you want to attend. And when you do walk into your next conference, make sure you adhere to these do’s and don’ts:

Do get plenty of rest.

Conferences are marathons, not sprints.  Programming can begin early, and sessions can last hours into the evening. You want to be fresh, bright-eyed and alert when you network with fellow attendees and keynote speakers.

Do stock up on your business cards.

A business card is something tangible that a potential connection will see and remind them to follow up with you post conference.

Do conduct research beforehand.

Maximizing your conference experience begins before you step on the plane.  Read the speakers’ bios and the itinerary to familiarize yourself.  Write down a few questions that you’ll want to ask during the conference. Check the schedule for any networking events and informal happy hours, which will enable opportunities for more personal conversations. Review social media to check for any additional events.

Do give your organizers feedback.

Organizers want to know what works and what they can improve for the next conference. Be specific because your feedback counts.

Do make the most of your time and effort.

You didn’t reserve your ticket to play the background. Be curious and confident. Put yourself out there. Talk to sponsors and ask questions. The representatives are there to answer them and want you to learn more about their company. Don’t just save your questions for the vendors. Bring that list of well prepared, thoughtful questions you wrote before the conference and ask them during panels and keynotes. You came to learn and meet people, so go forth and make genuine connections.

Do remember to say hello.

Introduce yourself to everyone sitting next to you before the sessions begin. Everyone will be stepping out of their comfort zone, and since you’ve already decided not to be shy, you might as well make the first step.

Don’t be late.

You don’t want to miss your opportunity to say hello to fellow attendees because you’re rushing in just as a speaker is walking to the podium to speak or already speaking. Make sure you’re seated at least five minutes before the session begins.

Don’t sit with the same people all the time.

Spread the joy. You never know where the next great connection is.

Don’t forget to follow-up.

New connections can wither before they begin. What happens at a conference shouldn’t stay there. Send emails to your new connections. Mention a topic you were discussing and inquire if they have time to continue the conversation at a later date.

We will all get back into the world at some time, a well prepared in-person conference in 2021 may just be the place to begin. A cool location…opportunities to make connections…stay current with advances in hearing health…and have a little fun while doing it, even the most cautious person can make it work.