Dear Camp Counselor,

I’m attending my first industry conference and I’m equal parts nervous and excited.  How do I know what sessions to attend?  How do I maximize my time?  How do I make new contacts?  Help!


Dear Heather,

Congrats on making the investment in yourself and your business.  Conferences are packed with opportunities to learn information that’s targeted towards you and your business, and there are also plenty of chances to meet new people.  That being said, there is also a lot to cover.  Many conferences are structured in a way that provides keynote speeches and panels for the whole group of attendees, with a chance to separate into smaller workshops or breakout sessions throughout the day.  Usually a variety of workshops are offered at the same time, and it’s often hard to pick which one you want to attend.  My first suggestion is this: go with your gut and pick the workshop that seems most exciting to you.  Depending on where you are at in your business you may want to attend a session addressing a question you currently have, or you can look toward the future of your business and pick something that gets you excited about next steps.

From there, divide and conquer.  If you’re going with a friend, coordinate who is going to what workshop and then swap notes afterwards.  It’s not as good as firsthand experience, but you’ll be able to glean the important information.  Don’t know anyone at the conference?  No problem.  When you first sit down, introduce yourself to the people sitting on either side of you.  See what sessions they’re attending and offer to exchange notes as well.  You get to meet new people and also walk away with some new knowledge.

As far as meeting people, simply introduce yourself.  A handshake and a smile go a long way in making a connection.  Have your own business cards handy and when you receive a card from someone else, it’s a good idea to jot down information on the back about how you met them, what you discussed, etc.  You can also keep track of your contacts using TSBC Alum + speaker, Kristen Ley’s card organizer.  On a general note, I also recommend visiting the conference website to brush up on the the schedule as well as information about speakers and presenters at the conference. If there’s someone you’d love to talk to, having looked at their photo and bio helps you put a face to the name.

A few last suggestions:

  • Make sure you have a way to take notes.  A notebook is usually easier to access and more discreet than a laptop.
  • Go into the conference with an idea of what you’d like to take away, then keep yourself open for new discoveries and opportunities.
  • Have your elevator pitch handy if anyone asks.
  • Have fun!

Good luck!

–Katie Hunt, Tradeshow Bootcamp

P.S. Be sure to check out Business Camp for strategies and solutions for creative entrepreneurs!



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