It’s crunch time, you’re at the conference!

So you’ve done your prep, you’ve got your meetings lined up, now it’s time to put your game face on, get on the plane and get out there.

Let’s talk packing. Take more than one pair of shoes to wear. Why? Because at conferences you invariably end up standing around all day. Even with REALLY comfortable shoes, you will be surprised how sore your feet are at the end of the day. So a different pair each day just makes it that bit easier. And if you’re a woman, don’t go all out with the vertiginous (yes I know, isn’t that a great word!) heels. It’s pretty difficult to still be smiling after 8 hours in towering stilettos.

Also, take a jacket. Conference rooms are typically arctic in temperature and again, it’s very hard to keep smiling when you are freezing cold. And if you’re up for it, take the gym gear and hit the gym each morning. You’ll feel refreshed and energetic and (slightly) less likely to booze it up in the evening if you know you’re going to get up early in the morning.

Another obvious point, take lots of business cards. If anyone tries to tell you that business cards are old hat and no one ‘cool’ uses them any more, don’t listen. A good business card is a mini-brochure, and a great reminder. Plus, it gives you an easy way to ask for someone else’s card so you can contact them after the conference.

Once you’re there, remember, you’re there to work. One thing that means is that although it’s (more) fun to hang around with all your old buddies, you’re not getting value out of your time and money unless you get out there and network.

Speaking of getting out there, if you are rostered to be on a stand (or it’s your stand), make sure you are 100% clear on the schedule and be there before the attendees arrive. Empty stands are NOT a good look, and don’t do your personal or business brand any favours. Yes, it can be boring waiting for people to arrive, but frankly, that’s tough. I mean, there has to be SOME downside to the endless supply of Lindt chocolates and free booze at dinner…

Now let’s talk conference sessions. Some conferences have fantastic speakers, and it’s really hard to choose which sessions NOT to attend. Not all of course! Personally, I like to plan in advance which sessions I’m going to attend, and which ones I’m not – it’s just one less thing to think about when I’m actually there. It also means you know exactly when you’re available for meetings etc.

And lastly, booze. Yes, it can be great fun getting trollied when there’s no small children to wake you up at 6am, but really, you are there to represent your company. I’ve seen (and OK, participated in… but it was a long time ago!!) some fairly stupid behaviour at conference dinners and ‘after’ parties. It just doesn’t do you any favours. Know your limits and keep inside them. Nuf said really.

I’m sure all this sounds like no fun at all! Done properly, conferences take a lot of energy and planning. But without both of those things, you may as well not attend. And just remember, it is VERY satisfying to flop into the airline seat on the way home, wallet stuffed full of business cards from new contacts, knowing that you made a sound investment to attend the conference and that you’ve got your monies worth.

Next week, the forgotten follow-up. Why it matters and how to do it well. Until then, happy marketing!