9 ways to make the most of that convention you’re going to

Conventions can be a great way to network and expand your business or client base. However, they can also be a time-suck if you don’t plan before you check in. Here are 9 things you should do to make the most of your next convention:

Before you go

Plan your visit: When I was 9 years old, my dad made – literally – a minute-by-minute plan when my family visited Disney World. On the plane, each family member got his or her own spreadsheet. Splash Mountain was going to be the busiest ride, so naturally that was scheduled for minutes after the park’s opening. Dumbo was snooze-worthy, so was scheduled for when he figured I would be half asleep – 5:13 p.m.

It’s crazy, but it worked. We made the most of the little time we had – as should you.

To plan your convention:

  1. Decide which speakers or events you can’t miss. Prominent speakers might roam the convention – knowing their faces is handy because often others flock to speakers right after their speeches. Get there first and make an impression. Do this by connecting with them on LinkedIn.
  2. Then block out your meals. (You brought gum or mints, right?)
  3. With the little time remaining, you’ll likely visit vendor booths – you won’t have time to visit them all and it wouldn’t be worth your time if you did. Get a list of vendors before the convention and pick your top four. Depending on your company’s goals for the event, these might be clients or potential business collaborators.
  4. Promote that you’re going. Your social media connections should know what you’re up to – and who knows, it might bring some people to your table, literally.

Plan your booth: Will you have posters? Will you somehow demonstrate your business? Do you need a TV? A Wii? Will you draw people in with a giveaway? Candy?

Figure out how much space you will have and plan your display accordingly. Your display depends on the vibe you want to put out there – for instance, tables for promotional materials are nice, but will they make your staff look like trapped zoo animals, potentially limiting interactions with potential clients?

If your staff has a designer, mock up what you’d like the booth to look like – it might look different in a mock-up than it does in your mind.

At the conference

  1. Network. Be strategic about how you spend your time, but don’t be rude or dismiss people – you never can be sure who you might be talking to (the nephew of a big potential client?).
  2. Stick to your plan. That’s why you made it.
  3. Use social media. See who else is there and connected, and promote your business all in one.

After the convention

Follow up: You attend conventions to woo consumers and network. The work doesn’t end when you roll up your posters.

  1. Connect on social media with the people you connected to in person. Send a personal note.
  2. Write a blog post for your company’s blog and reuse it for your company’s social media.

Extensive planning and using social media can seem tedious and time consuming, but the time you put in directly correlates with the results you get out.

If you want even more information about getting the most out of your next convention, consider attending Trade Show Booth Camp to learn more about effective displays, colors, sales without the hard sell and more. It’s a full-day event on Saturday, Jan. 25 at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.