How to make the most out of a technology conference
Written by Terkel
From arriving prepared with questions to focusing on your goals, here are 16 answers to the question, “Attending relevant conferences is often part of a business and leadership strategy. What are your most helpful tips for how you can make the most of a tech conference?”
- Prepare a List of Questions
- Set Specific Objectives
- Schedule Down Time to Reflect and Recharge
- Research the Speakers Before Attending
- Construct Your Pitch
- Build Connections and Set Up Meetings Before the Event
- Look into Key Topics and Important Discussions
- Set Aside Your Usual Workload
- Take Your Time, You Don’t Have to See Everything
- Capture Insights With Notes
- Bring a Buddy
- Get Creative With Business Cards
- Prioritize Networking
- Search for Good Conversations
- Utilize Social Media
- Keep Your Goals in Mind
Prepare a List of Questions
We all know how important it is to keep up with technology as a business owner, but it can be tough to find the time to attend tech conferences. If you’re lucky enough to have the chance to go to one, make sure you’re well prepared to make the most of it.
Beforehand, make a list of questions you’d like to ask speakers and panelists and take notes throughout the event. Afterward, reflect on what you heard and create action items to implement new insights you gained. This will ensure you leave the conference with new knowledge and insights, as well as a plan to put what you learned into practice in your business.
Set Specific Objectives
This could include learning about specific technologies or industry trends, networking with other professionals in your field, or identifying potential partners or clients. Having clear goals in mind can help you to focus your attention and make the most of your time at the conference.
It can also be helpful to research the conference schedule in advance and plan out which sessions and events you want to attend. This can help you to maximize your exposure to the topics and speakers that are most relevant to your goals.
Schedule Down Time to Reflect and Recharge
When attending a tech conference, it’s important to make sure you schedule time away from the presentations and events. Most people want to get their money’s worth when they go to a business event like a conference. However, that can result in a brutal schedule, and taking in more information than you can digest.
Make sure to give yourself downtime each day where you can review your notes after presentations and build your own thoughts and conclusions, so you can apply what you learned to your business and unique needs. Scheduling free time can also give you an opportunity to network with other attendees and meet with vendors, so you can build profitable business relationships that can lead to business ventures or mentorship opportunities in the future.
Research the Speakers Before Attending
Even in niche conferences, you’ll often find that there is a vast array of speakers, and therefore, it is likely there are speakers who you will fully resonate with and learn from, whereas others may be outside of your sphere of interest in relation to your career or personal goals
Researching speakers beforehand can certainly ensure that you avoid any missed opportunities for talks that you would otherwise have really wanted to attend!
Construct Your Pitch
The secret to transforming polite conversation between panels into a meaningful conversation at conferences, which can frequently feel like speed dating, is a polished elevator pitch.
Have a clear idea of what you want to communicate briefly about yourself and your project. The key is being able to communicate clearly and persuasively without sounding too salesy; getting this right is also excellent practice for subsequent pitch sessions.
Your follow-up should take into account how the conversation develops after the initial pitch. The introduction should provide the most comprehensive and concise explanation of your company’s mission and goals. Create other scenarios based on how the connection develops.
The most effective strategy is to engage in a conversation that is free of pitching and more casual. Don’t forget to ask prospective partners about their requirements and interests. Find out as much as you can about them, then demonstrate why having a connection with you makes sense.
Build Connections and Set Up Meetings Before the Event
Conferences are a great opportunity to meet and connect with other professionals in your field. Usually, conferences have an event app with the contacts of participants that are shared before the event.
Take advantage of networking and make an effort to strike up conversations with people you are planning to meet at the event. Don’t be shy about introducing yourself and sharing your business information before you have met in person; it will make your participation in the conference much more productive.
Look into Key Topics and Important Discussions
My advice is to prepare ahead of time: research the speakers, panels, and topics that will be discussed in advance and create a schedule of which sessions you want to attend. This will help you make the most out of your time by ensuring you don’t miss out on any key topics or important discussions
It’s also helpful to network with other attendees, as this gives you the opportunity to exchange ideas and insights with like-minded professionals from around the world. Be sure to bring plenty of business cards and follow up with those you meet afterward via email or social media channels. Lastly, take note of any new technologies or trends discussed at the conference so you can apply them back in your own organization when you return home.
Set Aside Your Usual Workload
Being present is crucial if you wish to make the most of a tech conference. If you carry your usual workload and spend your time on the phone or your laptop wrapping up your routine activities, you will never be able to accomplish the goals you’ve set for the conference.
Set aside your everyday work responsibilities and ensure you concentrate entirely on the tasks you’ve lined up for yourself and your team at the conference. Meet all the right people, build new relationships, and ensure that the only thing on your mind is how to maximize your presence at this conference to your organization’s benefit.
Take Your Time, You Don’t Have to See Everything
I think some people feel like they have to visit and see everything at a big tech conference. I was definitely like this the first few I attended. My company is in the medical industry, so staying on top of all the new apps, tech, and software is super important.
After experiencing several tech conferences over the past five years, I have come to realize that quality is more important than quantity. Going in with a plan of a few key vendors or presentations I want to see for our company’s needs is my number one tip for making the most of the conference.
You don’t have to see everything and everyone. You do need to make the most out of who you do get a chance to see. A tech conference for me is about new information and new relationships. Relationships in particular take time, and they are worth investing quality time in. The last couple of conferences I have attended have been much more productive for my team as I have focused on developing relationships and acquiring important info.
Capture Insights With Notes
The sheer volume of information shared at conferences can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to forget details right after the event ends. That’s why it’s important to take notes during talks and panels.
Whether you prefer writing things down in a notebook or typing them into a laptop, make sure that you record all the key points discussed by speakers or panelists. Doing this will help jog your memory when you need to recall something later on. It’s also a great way to capture ideas and insights that you can use for your business.
Bring a Buddy
As someone new to the conference game, I’ve learned that the best way to make the most of a tech conference is to always bring a buddy with you. Being in a room filled with like-minded and innovative entrepreneurs can be overwhelming, and it’s nice to have a pal to high-five when you make a great connection or to rant about the shoddy Wi-Fi with.
Plus, having someone to share notes with afterward can be a real time-saver, as it means you can both focus on different aspects of the conference and then exchange information later
I recently had a great experience at a SW conference when my friend and I attended several different sessions but followed the same tracks throughout the day. We were able to absorb the information while at the conference, and in the evening we compared notes, went through our contact lists, and discussed how we could leverage what we had learned. Having a buddy by your side doubles your chances and is key to making the most of your time.
Get Creative With Business Cards
Getting creative with one’s business cards is one of the best practices for any tech conference. This can mean many things, but at the core of each element is the need to stand out. Attendees will be going table to table in a sea of over a thousand companies.
Whether the card itself gets all the bells and whistles to be one-of-a-kind, or you have a funny slogan or unique method to distribute them, make sure it will be something memorable for those new contacts.
Conferences are less about the destination and more about the people you’ll meet there. You will be in a unique position to meet dozens of other people who are specifically there to do exactly the same thing as you. Don’t waste the opportunity
Even if you are most often inclined to avoid socializing, this is the time to turn that networking dial all the way up. Say yes to connections and put meetings with new people on your calendar by the time you leave the conference.
Search for Good Conversations
Whatever type of conference it is that you are attending, my best tip for making the most of that conference is to not just focus on the speakers and discussions (which are obviously still very important) but to also allow time for talking and getting to know the other people attending. The likelihood is they are in a similar field or sector to you, and you never know who you might meet.
Alongside building your professional network through simple interaction, and getting to know people from further afield than you might do in normal situations, you could also be making the conferences a lot more interesting and productive for yourself through the discussions you have with those people that might take your thought process a bit further after the actual talk is done—it’s always good to have people to delve deeper into the conversation with, and can also help you learn more new things.
Utilize Social Media
Spread the word about your team’s attendance at the conference! In addition to posting on our company sites, we asked the team to do the same on their personal profiles. Having a social media presence will help you network with other guests and let people know that your business is there. The main goals of tech conferences are, as I suggest, networking and taking advantage of opportunities. So show courage and pursue your goals.
Keep Your Goals in Mind
How you make the most of a tech conference will depend on your goals. If you’re exhibiting, you’re likely there to make sales and connections. You’ll want to capture visitors’ attention with your booth by appealing to their senses with intriguing visuals, exciting audio, and even enticing smells. Then you can prominently display your products, demo your services, network, and collect information from leads.
If you’re just attending, you’re likely there to learn, network, and possibly make a purchase. Look up the lectures, workshops, meetups, and any other educational or networking opportunities ahead of time.
Make a schedule so you can be sure to fit in the most important events. Come prepared with business cards, questions, talking points, and even resources you or your company have produced that you can share. If you’re buying new tech, check out the products and services at the booths, and ask others for recommendations while you network.
Register for the Council’s upcoming Phoenix and Tucson tech events and Optics Valley optics + photonics events.