I recently attended the Financial Bloggers Conference in Denver, Colorado, along with about 400 other personal finance bloggers, writers, financial professionals, advertisers, and others in the industry. Conferences are a great way to meet people in your field, forge new personal and professional relationships, grow your professional skills, extend your professional network, generate business opportunities, and more. I highly recommend attending a conference in your industry if the opportunity is there. The benefits can be amazing.
But it’s important to understand that the conference doesn’t end once you get home. The conference continues until you let it end. It’s up to you to extend the life of the event to maximize the benefits of attending. Let’s look at a couple things you can do while you’re at the conference, then how you can extend the benefits once you get home.
Maximize Your Conference Experience
There are dozens of ways to maximize your experience while attending the conference, but I want to focus on the relationship building side of things. The key is to get yourself out there as much as possible. There are always valuable sessions, seminars, and events, and I recommend attending some of them. But in my experience, the most valuable part of attending conferences is the personal and professional relationships you can establish.
Bonding with someone over a day or two can lead to some amazing working relationships and can often lead to future working agreements or business deals. It’s much easier to get a deal off the ground when you already have an established relationship and can just call them on the phone, vs. cold-calling them or sending an unsolicited e-mail.
If the sessions are being video taped or will otherwise be made available later, then take the opportunity to meet with people at the conference, and view the sessions later.
But there is more to just spending a few hours with someone – you need to follow up with them after the conference. Here are a few tips and action items to do after you get home from the conference.
Post Conference Checklist
In my experience, attending conferences has always been a blur. There is so much going on – between meeting old friends and making new ones, it seems like the action never stops. Seminars, happy hours, quiet meals, late nights, stacks of business cards – it all adds up. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with he experience and let everything slide once you get home. But that would be a big mistake.
You see, the conference doesn’t stop once it officially ends. Putting your new skills and relationships to work will help you maximize your post-conference experience.
Phone calls, followups, and e-mails. Chances are very good that you will have met many new people at your conference, and it’s a good idea to followup with them while the event is still fresh on everyone’s mind. Followup within a few days if possible. One thing I do during the conference is write on the back of the business cards I receive. It can be anything that helps me remember the person, meeting, or conversation. That way I don’t forget the details of our meeting when I follow up after I return.
The next thing to do is draft a list of people you want to follow up with. A great time to do this is on the flight home. Just grab a slice of paper and brainstorm all the names of the people you met and wish to followup with. It also helps to jot down a note or two next to the person’s name so you don’t forget the details of the meeting or what you want to e-mail them about. Trust me – you will probably want to follow up with quite a few people, and you want to make sure no one falls through the cracks.
Make introductions. As I mentioned, conferences are a great place to meet new people. After you follow up with your new friends and colleagues, take the opportunity to introduce them to other people you may know, provided you have permission, of course. A blind intro can be awkward if not done well. Here are some tips on the art of professional introductions.
Document business expenses. If you are a small business owner or are making the trip on behalf of your company, then be sure to document and track all your business expenses so you can either get reimbursed, or have the paperwork necessary to get your tax write-off at the end of the year. The worst thing you can do is wait until the end of the year and try to sort through everything. Take the time while the event is still fresh on your mind and you still have the receipts at hand. Waiting dramatically increases the odds that you will lose some of your documentation or forget to claim the expenses – and that can be an expensive lesson!
Get caught up. Sleep, work, e-mail, family time, and household chores fall to the wayside while you are gone. Take a full day of recovery time if you can swing it. Your health and family will appreciate it, and so will you.
Put things into motion. You no doubt learned a lot from the conference, and more importantly, you probably came home with a thousand ideas and a ton of motivation. Bottle that lightening and start putting those ideas to work. Again, start at the conference or on the plane ride home and jot down a list of ideas you have. Get them on paper so you don’t forget them. Then prioritize them and start implementing your ideas. Putting what you learned into action will make the cost of the conference well worth it. Without action, all you have is an expensive memory.
Do you have any other tips for what to do after a conference?