It’s the start of conference and trade show season when lawyers, legal professionals and techies open their wallets and pile up frequent flyer miles and hotel points. But too frequently, conference attendees leave feeling less than satisfied.
We go to conferences to learn, meet new people, and nurture existing relationships. An engaging and meaningful experience starts with preparation. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Twitter – I can’t think of a medium that’s better suited to opening doors at conferences. A place where you can meet folks who are also attending, start conversations, and put a face to the person via their Twitter avatar. Heading into the conference, you’ve now established relationships with a core group of attendees and conversations (and hugs) begin almost immediately. It’s magical. I’ve experienced it many times. It’s also a great medium for nurturing relationships after the conference. Or you may even take your relationship to the next ‘Facebook’ level.
2. Blogging – Twitter is great for meeting folks and engaging, but your blog showcases your interests and provide fodder for deeper conversation at the conference. If you have an established blog, many conference offer a complimentary blogger pass.
3. Mobile Apps – Of course you already have the Twitter app on your smartphone. Here are a few others: TripIt – for easing your airport worries, Evernote – for taking notes and recording voice memos, LunchMeet – for making plans with your LinkedIn connections, and CardMunch – for turning business cards into contacts.
4. Host a Meetup – I’m not suggestion that you host a dinner for 20 in New York City or San Francisco. That’ll set you back more than a few dollars. Instead, select a social space, like a bar or snack joint, even a karaoke bar, and advertise it via email and on the social networks. Conference attendees are usually on the lookout for these types of casual events.
5. Add notes to business cards – Ever got home after a conference with a ton of business cards but don’t have a clue who’s who and how you connected? We’ve all been there. To avoid this, spend a few minutes each night before turning in and add notes to each card. Cynthia Sharp suggests a great way of doing this: Scan each card into a conference notebook in Evernote and annotate. Follow-up with each after the conference.
So, before you hop on the plane to Legal Tech in New York, the Association of Continuing Legal Education Meeting in Clearwater, the ABA Techshow in Chicago, or any other conference, spend a bit of time preparing, and get ready for a great conference experience.