27 Things To Do Before a Conference

PubCon Audience If you’re attending events over the next several months, you might give some thought to a quick checklist that might help you better accomplish your goals. As I’m not entirely sure of your goals, I’ll list a bunch of ideas, and you can just narrow it down to what you think works best for you. Feel free to add more ideas to the comments section.

I should note that this post presumes we’re talking about more modern conferences and/or events where people might be even vaguely connected to the Internet.

27 Things To Do Before a Conference

Research

  1. This seems silly to start with, but check the schedule of the event. Mark off what you want to see. Get a sense of what you might ask for a pertinent question based on the session description, and/or decide what the business value of your interaction at any session might be.
  2. Check in at Twitter Search for anyone talking about the event you’re attending. You can then determine if you want to follow them and start conversations ahead of the event. This works amazingly well for people who might be a bit shy.
  3. Check via Google Blogsearch and Technorati for any references to the event. See whether any companies are announcing anything. Look for signs of business opportunity ahead of the experience, and if you find some, do more homework with search and research.
  4. Visit Flickr and look for recent pictures of attendees or other people you hope to meet at the event. I keep a little document of all the faces I might want to meet, sometimes with a few facts about the person, in a document. (I don’t do this for every event, but when I do, it helps).
  5. Visit the prospective attendees or business people’s blogs and Twitter streams for ideas of how things are going in their lives or in their businesses. Before running into someone, wouldn’t you want to know if they were in a car accident the day before, or maybe you’ll read that they just closed a B round of funding, and thus might have budget for a project with you. It’s free intelligence before a meeting.
  6. Read up on any industry news around the event you’re attending, to understand what might be impacting the people you’re mingling with. My guess is you’ll know where this information is for the type of event where you’re going. If not, consider this similar to my point above about Google Blogsearch and Technorati, but also check Google News and maybe do some straight Google searches as well.
  7. If you can, check a few of the people’s Twitter streams before you say hi at the conference. This way, you can have a few tidbits of someone’s personal news top of mind before connecting at the event.
  8. Check out the exhibitors and sponsors for the event. Click through the site links and visit their web pages. What do you know about them? Are they a prospective vendor for you? A client? Do you see some business value in meeting any of them?
  9. Check your LinkedIn for the city where you’ll be attending, and/or for any of the speakers’ or exhibitors’ names to see their professional profile.

Content Preparation

  1. Consider putting up a few post-dated blog posts so that you don’t have to worry about writing on deadline at the event. Unsure what to write about? Here are 100 blog topics.
  2. Write some of your best work in the days leading up to the conference, and have a great post launch on the day of the event. The likelihood of people checking out your blog during or just before an event is high. Heck, I just recommended that you do it.
  3. Consider writing posts that might help you form conversations at the event. For instance, if you’re looking to work with restaurants, write a blog post about how you’d help restaurants improve sales. Thus, people who might investigate your blog ahead of time might also know what you’re thinking about and will engage you.
  4. If you’re looking to connect at the event, some of your content should be outreach related, via services like Twitter or Facebook. Message the world using the event’s hash tag (if it has one), and/or the city/state (or province, etc) where the event is held. Thus, people using Twitter Search or poking around via Facebook might catch you in a search and engage you.
  5. Consider making a video about something and posting it to your blog. Videos will give people an even better opportunity to observe you and see what you’re about. It might also help with the people recognition factor, as seeing you in motion might improve their chance of seeing you at an event.
  6. If you’re thinking of liveblogging the event, prepare ahead of time (here’s a great article at Web Worker Daily about that).
  7. If you’re going to take lots of photos or videos at the event, check your gear to make sure you’ve got everything (charger, media transfer tools, spare whatevers). This seems to muck up things often.
  8. Sometimes an event has a blog. It might be neat to see if you can guest post on it. That might up your chance of meeting folks at the event.
  9. Here’s one: blog about people you know who might be at the event that you hope to connect with. Write about what you might want to talk with them about. It can’t hurt. (Though, in saying this, I’m not sure you’d have to blog that you want to meet me to meet me. You can just come over and say hi.)

Promotion and Other Prep

  1. Order fresh business cards. They don’t even have to be corporate-approved. Just buy some. Go to somewhere like Overnight Prints and pick up some new cards. Here’s the thing: make the NAME part very large. Make your primary mode of requested contact come first. Make it VERY clear what you do for business. Make sure you add the kind of offering you’re putting out there for the event (or for the next several events, if that makes sense).
  2. Scour your LinkedIn contacts for the city where you’ll be visiting and send some personal emails to people that you might want to meet in the target city. They don’t necessarily have to meet you at the conference, but you might be able to schedule coffee.
  3. Send message via Twitter saying that you’ll be visiting ____ conference in ____ (city) and let people know you’re coming. See if you can strike up friendships ahead of time. Maybe mention some of the stuff you’re looking to do, business-wise.
  4. Backup your laptop before you travel. You might not think about it, but there are many chances to destroy your data once you’re on the road. Make sure that’s not going to happen.
  5. Consider any extra batteries or power supplies you might need to bring with you.
  6. If you’ve got a business offer to promote at an event, practice and practice and practice how you’re going to talk about it. Be crisp. Make it easy to say. Be very clear about the ask. If you’re looking for people to review your demo, then make that the ask. If you’re looking for work, be clear that you’re available for a few extra projects. It seems that lots of folks beat around the bush or don’t exactly know how to have a beginning, middle, and end to a conversation.
  7. Practice believing in yourself.
  8. Remember that not meeting someone at an event isn’t always the end of the world. There are other chances, other times. Just the same, if it’s the kind of event where people have traveled to be there, take every opportunity to reach out. It’s harder to recreate an opportunity once everyone’s gone home.
  9. And this should come first, but remember to give your family a bit of extra love before leaving for the event. Take them out to dinner, and/or give the little ones some extra fun. Make a game of showing where you’ll be via Google Maps, and switch to Satellite or Street View to show them the visuals instead of just the map. Give everyone a chance to connect while you’re on the trip via Skype video, so they can stay in touch. It makes it easier.

Your Thoughts

What works for you on this list? How will it help you with your next event? What did I miss?

Photo credit GriffinTech

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