This is post college life, which means I still get excited about free food and conference swag as if it’s the first day of freshman year.
“Is my outfit professional enough?” I said while walking into the hotel, “Why did I bring so much stuff? Is that a breakfast burrito buffet?!”
If you’re like me, your first business conference will be a myriad of internal questions, awkward business reunions, and realizations as to why CEOs drink so much coffee. Either way, this short list will help you make the best impression for yourself and your company. After all, they sent you because you’re capable and will make a great impression. These tips are just the icing on the cake.
FOLLOW UP: Don’t forget the whole reason you went to the conference was to become more educated and make connections. Follow up with your connections after the event even if you don’t see a current opportunity. You never know where your next referral might come from.
DETAIL ORIENTED: Remember little details about your conversations and interactions with people at the conference. When you follow up use these details to remind them who you are and how you became acquainted. This will help your email separate itself from the pile of boring sales pitches while showing how observant you are.
LOUD AND PROUD: Say your name and company every time you speak in front of a group. Every time you get up is a chance to market yourself and your company. I’m going to add that if you don’t speak loudly and clearly, what’re you really marketing? By speaking exuberantly and confidently you do one of two things – first, people can hear you and second, people pay attention to you.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Write a short elevator speech about your company and memorize it. Practice it in front of your boss and ask if they have any tweaks. Practice in front of a mirror and see if you have any tweaks. If you’re really ambitious, make an elevator speech for the different sectors your company works with. For example, as an advertiser, my speech would be much different for another advertiser versus a potential client. Lastly, make it sound natural. Nothing is worse than a fully rehearsed lifeless speech. You’re better off making friends on a personal level than spitting off something unnatural and over rehearsed.
SLEEP TIGHTS: Notice I said tights as in plural. Trust me, coffee can only do so much when you have to talk, schmooze, and engage with people for fifteen hours a day. Good sleep before and during the conference will allow you to wake up for breakfast while making it to the after party.
LESS IS MORE: Walking into my first conference I had a huge bag, which after two minutes I realized was a mistake. Take my advice; the less you carry the better. Things are heavy, the conference is long, you look like a bag lady, and you’ll usually get another bag full of stuff. Oh, and the company materials you’re carrying? Most people don’t want to see them. You’re right in front of them. Now is the time to wow them with your personality. If anything, bring a tablet or smartphone so you can show them a file or interactive website. The only thing people want to take from you is a business card and even then sometimes they take a picture.
BE THE REALEST: I cannot tell you how many times I had someone walk up to me or vice versa and they had no clue that they were talking to me. I listen to people so I quickly pick up on who they are. Other people, after I dropped multiple hints, still hadn’t the slightest clue. Remember people and when you see them acknowledge them. After all, the business community is smaller than you think and you will see them again.
STAY FLY: The conference I went to had a gala at the end and a lot of people were unprepared, including me. Luckily, in an absurd amount of clothing a friend left in my car, I found something. Others weren’t so fortunate. A man at the conference drove to a nearby mall to grab a white shirt and tie to dress up for the gala – not how I want to spend our only two-hour break! So, prepare for the worst and bring one outfit to look your best.
MAKE IT RAIN: Bring cash to tip the valet, server, etc. Nothing is worse than nailing the elevator speech, getting the business card and then walking out to grab your car from the valet only to look like a total snob or that your company isn’t paying you enough. We all know that first impressions are everything so, make sure little things such as tipping the valet don’t tip the scales the wrong way.
WAX ON, WAX OFF: This goes a little with the valet along with the chance someone at the conference asks you to carpool. My co-worker wouldn’t get into my car because of the aforementioned closet however, if someone at the conference asked for a ride I would have been mortified. Make sure your car is clean enough for a tagalong. And if not, you better have your Uber up and running!
TEST THAT SELFIE: We got selfie sticks at our conference and my co-workers didn’t work! Luckily we tested the swag and he got another one – now we have a bunch of selfies.
All in all conferences are a great way to make new friends in the business world. You should be fine as long as you have fun while bringing your business cards and some cash.