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How to Make the Most Put of a Conference or Expo

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An expo or a conference is a great way to network with other people who work in your industry, as well as a great place to reach a target market.

I co-own and edit a wedding magazine, so I’ve been to my fair share of bridal expos. And I’ve learned a lot from being surrounded by other vendors as well as dealing with attendees.

I found some excellent blog posts written by professional who have great advice on how to make the most of your time at a conference or expo. I've used some of their tips to illustrate my thoughts. If you'll be attending a conference soon, then these tips are assembled just for you.

Do Your Research Before You Go

You might have to sign up to attend sessions in advance, so make sure to look up the topics and speakers ahead of time. The most popular sessions will fill up fast, so don’t wait to decide on what you want to attend on the day of the event—you might not get a seat!

A good strategy before conferences once you've seen the speaker and attendee list is to select the people you'd like to connect with. If you're well established in the topic, perhaps you want to focus on making a few really strong and solid connections. If you're just getting started and want to use the conference to get to know people, aim for a higher number. —Inc.com

Think about what you want to learn and take away from the conference, and plan your agenda accordingly. You aren’t going to be able to go to every session and meet every speaker—so make sure to make a list of priorities.

Don’t be a Wallflower

You will get out of a conference or expo what you put into it, so if you keep to yourself, you aren’t doing yourself any favors.

Take advantage of the mixers offered at the event you are attending. It’s a great way to network with new people while catching up with those you already know. But if you spend the entire time surrounding yourself with the same people, you are limiting your reach. Remember—you are there to learn and network!

Networking is a big part of going to a conference. Talk to people you don’t know. I met a retired women’s magazine editor at one of the cocktail parties at last year’s ASJA conference who gave me the best piece of advice I got at the entire conference (sorry, I can’t share – it’s that good). —Michelle Rafter

If you just hang out with your friends, you are wasting precious time. Those people already know you and how awesome you are—you need to introduce yourself and your services to people who DON’T know your capabilities. You never know where a referral might come from unless you put yourself out there.

Build an Interesting Booth

If you are a vendor at an expo, you need to show up prepared. And by prepared I don’t mean with just a stack of business cards in your hands. I have seen some of the most amazing booths at bridal expos—booths that people have really thought about and built themselves.

If you are looking to attract clients, make the most of your booth space. Create a space where you can comfortably chat with potential clients, whether this is a little couch or even a couple of chairs.

Plan Time With Like-Minded Folks

I attended a small business conference and really loved what one of the other attendees was saying in one of the sessions I attended. I made a point to catch up with her afterwards and introduce myself. We made plans to sit together at lunch and I now consider her a friend and turn to her on occasion for business advice.

Reach out to your contacts beforehand and propose grabbing an early breakfast together, lunch, or drinks during the conference. Encourage each person to invite 1-2 people that they deeply respect, thus broadening the potential of the meeting. —The 99%

Bring Business Cards

If you don’t have business cards, have some made—they aren’t expensive. A business card is a great way to leave something behind with someone you clicked with. It’s way easier to hand someone a business card with all of your contact information on it than to have them type it into their smartphone.

There are some cool online business card apps, like Bump, but they only work if the other person has the same app. Don’t want to walk around with a wad of business cards in your pocket? You could take a photo of it with your phone, or use LinkedIn’s CardMunch iPhone app, which captures the image and saves the info in your contacts.

Call me old fashioned, but I still like paper business cards. I’m impressed by color, the texture of the paper, and the cleverness of the design.

Tweet in the Back

If you plan on tweeting during someone’s presentation, don’t sit right in front of them.

Sit in the back if you’re live tweeting. Or on the side or somewhere else where you won’t bother people. Use the meeting hashtag when sharing tweets. Find the other people live tweeting the event: chances are you’ll have lots in common. —Michelle Rafter

It’s so distracting (and disheartening) to be giving a presentation to a group of people whose heads are buried in their technology. I always wonder if anyone is listening to me! Look up, make eye contact, smile, show you are interested. Trust me, the presenter will appreciate it!

Do you have any tips to share? We’d love to hear them!

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by xilius.

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