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Lights! Camera! Conference!

After writing Conventional Wisdom: The Attendee’s Guide to Making the Most of Trade Shows, Conferences, and Conventions and offering it for Kindle on Amazon, I received an email from journalist, Nichola Clark. Nichola asked if she could quote me for an article she was writing for Virgin Australia’s in-flight magazine, Voyeur.

Her article, “Conferencing: a curtain-raiser,” discussed all of the different roles involved in organizing a successful conference. She tagged me to present the attendee’s side of making a conference successful.

“Although there is no one-size-fits-all for how to get the best out of a conference, Jim Bob Howard, author of Conventional Wisdom: The Attendee’s guide to Making the Most of Trade Shows, Conferences and Conventions, says it usually boils down to four key objectives: meeting people, getting business, learning something new and experiencing somewhere new. ‘Take advantage of the social offerings and make it easy to stay in touch,’ Howard says. ‘Business cards are important, but there are some great mobile apps out there, which will help you exchange information via a digital handshake.’ Twitter makes exchanging information and continuing conversations very easy, so display your Twitter handle prominently.

Voyeur - Feb 2013

Virgin Australia – Voyeur

“For most conference attendees, Howard says, business development is not the top priority. ‘Have an elevator pitch ready to share if the need arises,’ Howard says. ‘But try to only share it when people ask. You’re building relationships, not shooting game.’

“Learning something new, Howard believes, is usually the main stated reason for attending conventions, whether it’s improving a part of your daily how-to, complying with changing regulations, or implementing an innovative product. ‘Check the sessions before travelling so you can make a schedule of the ones you don’t want to miss,’ he says. ‘Enter those sessions into your phone and set alerts (on vibrate) to remind you when to head to the next one.’

“But be careful not to overextend yourself, take regular breaks and make the most of meeting people. An easy trick to starting conversations, Berkun suggests, is opening with a question such as ‘”What’s the best talk you’ve seen so far?”, which usually lets you reciprocate, forcing you to review what you’ve learned and what you remember. You can watch lectures online and read blogs, but what you can’t get elsewhere are new friends and colleagues. You can’t work on finding those if you’re sitting on your butt every waking minute listening to lectures,’ he laughs. ‘If you’re bored in a session, it’s usually okay to leave and find another one, or even better, talk to the people who were bored too and are out in the hallway.’

“Finally, if you’re lucky enough to be in a new city, don’t forget to explore. Says Howard: ‘Whether it’s taking in a show, enjoying natural beauty, or simply trying a local cuisine, make time to enjoy your destination.'”

Read the rest of the article: Virgin Australia Voyeur – Feb. 2013, pages 110-118.


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