Conferences are a fantastic way to meet people you’ve only ever communicated with online. Facebook, Twitter, email and even the phone are only poor substitutes to meeting someone in person and really getting to know them.
To that end, the key to having a successful conference is to ensure you meet everyone you intend to meet. I like to separate, in my mind, my meetings into two categories – personal and professional. Personal refers to people I’d like to meet because I’m friends with them online. A fellow blogger falls under the “personal” category.
Professional refers to people I’d like to meet because we have an existing business relationship. An affiliate manager or a public relations representative falls under the professional.
Build a rough schedule of events. The first step is building a rough schedule of events you want to attend so you have a sense of where you’ll be and when. At conferences where there are ten different tracks and eight happy hours each night, it’ll be tough to remember what you wanted to do when – creating a list now will help.
Create a list of people you want to meet. This starts by asking your blogging colleagues if they’ll be attending. If they are, try to make sure you go to some of the same sessions or networking events.
Then, get a list of the attendees, speakers, and exhibitors in order to build your list of people you want to meet (your target list).
Email or tweet at your target list. Introduce yourself, let them know that you saw them on the list of attendees or speakers or exhibitors and that you’d love to meet up. You might set up a “formal” meeting at a particular time or just agree to look out for each other, just something where meeting in person will seem like a foregone conclusion.
Set up a few meetings beforehand. I like to keep my conference schedules flexible with only a handful of meetings pre-scheduled. I do this because I have my list of people I know I want to meet but I don’t want to feel constrained. I don’t want to feel like I’m going from meeting to meeting to meeting.
This flexibility gives me the structure of a few scheduled meetings but also the freedom to continue a fun conversation I’m having with someone on the coffee line.
Research your target list. This makes the most sense for big brands but knowing what big announcements they have can go a long way in showing them that you are aware of their work, their goals, and might make a good partner. If there is an opportunity to work together, knowing what they’re doing and being educated can help.
Prepare your blog for your absence. You’ll want to make sure your best content is published on your blog when you’re away. You’ll be meeting a lot of new faces, telling them about your site, and you’ll want the best stuff on the homepage for them to see should they load it up.
Conferences can be tiring and you’ll find that your ability to write good content will be compromised. It’s much easier to write it beforehand and schedule it to appear when you’re at your busiest.
I hope those tips help you prepare for your next conference, I know they’ve treated me well over the years.
Do you have any conference prep tips I missed? I’d love to hear them!
Jim Wang is the founder of Microblogger, where he teaches readers how to build a small business empire they can be proud of. In a few short years, he was able to turn Bargaineering, his humble personal finance blog, into a $3 million business and he shares all he knows. For actionable advice on how to build your own business, join his free newsletter.