In a given year there are countless conferences happening across US tech ecosystems – more than you and I know about, guaranteed. I’m talking everything from niche developer gatherings all the way up to SXSW and CES.
A big part of my job is to attend some of these conferences and make the absolute most of them via content production, community connections, and being a face for our brand here at Tech.Co. It does beg an all too important question though: how do you take full advantage of a conference?
Cursory Google searches of this question will most likely yield broad sweeping answers, like: you should network to get the most out of a conference – duh. We all know that networking is important, and we all do it on a daily basis in the tech world. However, I think it's only a small piece of the larger puzzle when it comes to being successful at conferences.
That is, there are so many other things you can do to squeeze every last drop of excitement, adventure, and meaning out of any and all conferences you attend. A lot of the subsequent tips in this list are built from my own, personal experience, and they're field tested to yield solid results.
Here are 15 ways you can maximize your conference experience:
- Renewed excitement for your work: It’s easy to get jaded when you do the same stuff every day, but nothing relights the fire under you better than engaging with people in similar fields. It goes far beyond simple networking here and hits on a level of rediscovery. This is you falling in love with your job all over again.
- Face to face meetings: The general divide of tech ecosystems across the US dictates that we will meet the majority of people via email. Getting a face to face is very difficult outside of the city you live in, but conferences are game changing in this arena. Personally, I like to overbook because it’s always a good call to meet your contacts face to face – you owe it to them.
- Get the inside scoop on industry trends: Most conferences are packed with breaking news and exciting events. However, I’d bet that most of you have to suffice reading about it after the fact. It’s ten times more fun to be there and watch it all happen live.
- Build ideas for content: Conferences, simply put, are a gold mine for new content. Going off of the previous point, take advantage of the fact that you can be the one breaking hot news to your social networks and professional friends not in attendance.
- Evaluate new startups: Any tech conference is going to have hosts of entrepreneurs buzzing around and talking up their companies. Go out of your way to connect with them and learn a thing or two about their company. Worst case scenario you make a new friend.
- Connect with the media: Just as there are entrepreneurs in attendance, there are guaranteed media presences there as well. As a member of the media, trust me on this one – it’s always a good idea to make friends in the media. After all, you might need some press when you launch a new product, get funding, or acquire a new company.
- Job hunting: If it’s something you’re looking for, there are usually plenty of opportunities for employment. Not to mention if you network properly with the right people you might be looking at a new gig before the conference even ends. This plays nicely off of the face to face meeting point as well.
- Prospective new users: Entrepreneurs are always looking for new users to try out their product, and there’s no better place to engage with potential candidates than at a conference. From the users’ side, it’s a great way to get some free swag but also to try out new services that might actually help in your own life.
- Get new perspective on business strategies: If your business strategy isn’t working, take some time to hunt down similarly focused companies and talk to them about what they do. Maybe you can learn a new trick or two from a showcasing company or even a keynote speech.
- Shake up the daily grind: Wake up, get dressed, go to work, come home, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day. The daily grind can be monotonous sometimes, and conferences usually fall on weekdays – it’s a great way to get out of your rut and do something different.
- Minimized distractions: This might seem counterintuitive on some levels, but even though there’s a lot happening around you conferences have a weird way of honing your focus. There are also work rooms or quiet corners you can go to if you need to get something important done.
- See a new city: A lot of us don’t get to travel very regularly in our jobs, so take the opportunity to go out and explore the awesome city or town you’ll be shacked up in for a while.
- You never know who you’ll meet: Maybe you bump into your future spouse, a potential investor, or somebody giving free stuff away. If you can maintain an open mind you’ll meet somebody cool, that’s for sure.
- Something to take back home with you: Not all of the office team can go to the actual conference, but you can do your part to bring a piece of it back with you. Absorb all the nuances you can, take pictures, buy some small trinkets, and make a team building exercise out of it when you get back home.
- Just go have fun: Above all else, this is my number one rule. If you’re having fun, the conference will be a monumental success.
As it just so happens, we’ve got our annual Celebrate Conference in Downtown Vegas coming up in October. The three day journey will offer attendees access to scintillating workshops, high quality mentor advice, intriguing sessions, and, of course, our Startup of the Year competition.
If you're interested in attending make sure to get your tickets today. Also, make sure to follow these 15 tips in October and soak up any and everything surrounding our celebration of tech in all shapes and sizes. The last thing I'll say is this: make sure to wear comfortable shoes at any conference you attend!
Image Credit: Flickr / Dave Taylor's page / cropped, resized