Choosing to go to a trade show, conference, or other training opportunity not only means time away from your company, it means a monetary investment. So, it's key to get the most out of every show you attend. 

Here are 10 ways to get the most out of your conference experience time after time.

  1. Check out the event website. Find out who the exhibitors are & where they have their booths, and when & where the events are. You can also get more information on the speakers.
  2. Register in advance. Different conferences have different policies and pricing structures; so you may be able to save money by registering early.
  3. Stay at the hotel associated with the event. You might be able to find a hotel cheaper on a discount site, but most of the attendees and exhibitors will be staying there because it's convenient. And after the day's events, they'll all be meeting in the hotel bar for drinks and informal socializing.
  4. Download the event app on your device in advance. Most conventions now have mobile apps which have all the information you need about the conference.  Most have notifications that let you know when certain events are happening.  Many conferences are now having interactive aspects to give feedback at the end of sessions and passport type games when you visit exhibitors.
  5. Be prepared. You’ll need plenty of business cards (yes, people still use them!) to pass out, along with any other information you might want to exchange.  Wear comfortable clothes and footwear.
  6. Network. Mingle as much as you can. In addition to talking to exhibitors, be sure to take advantage of speakers, workshops, lunches and other opportunities to learn and meet others in your industry.
  7. Build Stronger Relationships. A conference is the time to meet new people, but it’s also a time to build on the relationships you already have. If you know of people you want to reconnect with or get to know better who will be attending—clients, vendors, friends-of-friends—reach out a few weeks before the conference to set up a time to meet for coffee or a meal while you’re at the event.
  8. Connect with the Speakers. The speakers and panelists at any conference are likely key experts in their field—the people who you want to know. So don’t be afraid to ask questions or hang around (even as the last person) at a session to say hello, tell them you loved the presentation, and grab their business cards, and connect with them on Linkedin.
  9. Avoid approaching booths when they are packed. If you approach when it's busy, you might not have the ability for a good discussion with the exhibitor. Make a note of their location, and circle back later.  I usually plan on hitting most booths on the second day for that reason.
  10. Follow up. When you get back home, immediately organize your contact information and touch base with people within two weeks (before they forget about you). I sometimes add them on Linkedin right after meeting them using the mobile app.  It makes it easier to tailor a good invite message. (Good to meet you at…) Following up promptly is key to successfully maximizing your new contacts.