Podcast Movement, New Media Expo, Social Media Marketing World, and many other conferences are wonderful for networking, learning, and presenting. Here are 21 tips for getting the most from any kind of podcasting or social-media conference or event you may attend.
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These tips are focused more on the attendee. But I have previously shared tips for using conferences to grow your audience.
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1. Lodge at or near the event
It is, unfortunately, usually more expensive to stay at the official hotel, but it may be worth it to you.
You can easily drop stuff off in your room, get something you forgot, rest when you need it, and it's more accessible to you for early morning or late-night networking events in the hotel.
2. Come early, stay late
At the least, stay for the whole conference, and I don't think you'll ever regret it. I recommend arriving several hours (or a day) before it starts, and not leaving until the day after it ends.
This gives you more time to settle in, relax, network, or enjoy some other local entertainment.
3. Watch your health
Conferences are notorious breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria. I order of priority, these are the best tips I know for staying healthy.
- Stay current on vitamins, especially vitamin C.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Don't touch your face.
- Bring handkerchiefs or tissues for when you do need to touch your face. If those aren't available, use the the back of your wrist.
- Wash your hands as often as possible.
- Use hand lotion and lip balm.
- Use hand-sanitizer discreetly when you can't wash your hands.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Make healthy food and drink decisions.
4. Plan ahead
Most conferences release the session schedule ahead of time. Pick your preferred sessions before you get to the events.
Also ensure you have plenty of flexible time you can use for networking.
5. Don't try to do too much
It's easy to pack too much into a single event. You want to meet a hundred people, have lunch with a dozen, attend twenty sessions, and record five interviews—all at a one-day conference. Nope. That won't happen.
Plan for what's most important and unrepeatable. For example, you can probably do a podcast interview anytime, not just on the show floor.
6. Pack lightly
Optimize your wardrobe so you have a fresh change of anything touching your skin, but go light for everything else. Maybe you can wear the same pants for more than one day. Or consider wearing T-shirts instead of collared shirts. Remember that you may also receive some free T-shirts at the event.
Also remember to pack light with your gear. You may want to bring your DSLR for snapshots, but maybe your smartphone camera will work well enough. Likewise, instead of bringing a handheld mic and recorder, your smartphone's built-in mic may be good enough for event audio (remember to stay close to the mic!).
7. Bring podcast/business cards
Have cards for yourself or your podcast. I have used and recommend GotPrint (no affiliate link) for high quality, inexpensive printing. Please contact me if you need a designer.
Don't be a card-ninja, throwing business cards like ninja stars to everyone you meet. Be kind and courteous with your cards. This isn't a shallow numbers game; it's about depth.
I usually wait to give my card until someone asks for it, there's something I want them to remember, or I know I want to stay connected with them. This all happens near the end of a conversation, not the beginning.
8. Write on podcast/business cards you receive
My best practice for remember and following up with people is to take notes on their business cards. Note what you talked about, something that stood out about them, or the followup action you need to take.
Not only is the good for you, but it also shows great respect and interest to the person you met.
9. Take notes on takeaways, not outlines
For sessions you attend, it's easy to slip into merely copying each speaker's outline. For many, these outlines are not the most actionable information. Instead, focus on your takeaways: something you need to do, something amazing you want to remember, or specific resources for further investigation.
10. Use a Bluetooth keyboard, not a laptop
I know there are many psychological reasons to use paper rather and a digital system for taking notes. But if you choose a digital system, then make it as small and lightweight as possible.
Bringing a laptop means lugging around a power adapter, depending on power outlets, and needing a flat space or else burning your lap. Having all your computing power in front of your during a session can also be a distraction as you receive notifications about emails or social interactions.
If you need a large screen, consider a tablet (like an iPad) and a Bluetooth keyboard. This is lightweight, allows for fast typing, and the battery will usually last all day.
Here's the best-kept secret. Bluetooth keyboards also work with smartphones! Thus, you could bring only the keyboard and your regular phone, and easily type notes into your favorite note-taking program on your phone (I recommend Evernote)! I do this when I review movies.
11. Tweet your notes
Consider sharing your takeaways with others by posting them on Twitter. With If This Then That (IFTTT), you can easily collect all of your tweets (plus favorite tweets) into a single note to serve as your conference notes.
This helps others follow the conversation, and can often encourage more personal connections with people during networking times.
12. Use and follow the official hashtag
This is a big pet peeve of mine. If there's an official hashtag, use it and only it! For example, New Media Expo's hashtag is #NMX. I've seen variations like #NMX15, #NMX2015, and #NewMediaExpo. Even though “#NMX” appears in two of those, #NMX and #NMX15 are completely different hashtags to most social networks, and searches for “#NMX” will not include “#NMX15.”
Remember to include the official hashtag on all social posts: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, Vine, and whatever else you use.
To make following the official hashtag fun and easy on Twitter, use Tchat (my preference), TweetChat, or similar. These will allow you to see a constant stream of tagged tweets, plus easily post with the hashtag automatically included! These sites work fairly well in mobile browsers, too.
13. Never eat alone or hang out in cliques
There are so many amazing people at events that you have no excuse for being alone. If you're more of an introvert, having a meal with someone is often more comfortable for connecting with people.
It's also easy to hang out with only the people you know and to form your own little cliques. Try to branch out and hangout with new friends or people outside your usual circles.
14. Attend networking events
Networking events and usually intended for something profound: networking! Even if you don't stay for the whole event (I often leave early when the music is too loud, which seems to happen more than it should), at least make an appearance and talk to a few people. You may find a quiet corner, or even meet people who would be willing to go somewhere quieter to continue a great conversation.
There may be alcohol at events, and your consumption is up to you. But I do highly recommend that you stay aware of your limit and avoid getting drunk. Even if you don't get intoxicated, you can still overdo it and embarrassing yourself over how much your slur in trying to communicate with someone.
15. Host a meetup
If you have an audience, try to meet up with them! Even if they won't be attending the conference, put the word out that you'll be in the area and give them an opportunity to meet you in person. This can be a formal party or dinner, or a casual time for dessert.
16. Get the virtual ticket
No matter your interest, it's almost inevitable that good conferences will have simultaneous sessions you would like to see. You could try splitting your time between the two, but I highly recommend the virtual ticket.
This gives you the freedom to miss a session for whatever reason—continuing talking in the hallways, rest in your room, talk to the exhibitors, attend a different session, and more.
The virtual ticket also means you can more easily review the session you may have already attended but need to hear again.
17. Opt-in for extras
Many speakers will give you the opportunity to opt-in to their mailing list for notes or additional resources. If you appreciated their information, do take this opportunity! Sometimes, this may even mean getting the session recording before it's available on the official virtual ticket.
Yes, you will probably be added to their regular mailing list, which may include other offers. But if you appreciated what someone gave you for free in their session (speakers are often unpaid), they probably have even more value in their premium offerings.
18. Start or join conversations
Regardless of how you classify your personality, it can be tricky to join conversations. But if you're at any kind of social-media event, people are usually more social! Unless you see someone having a conversation away from the rest of the group, it's probably okay to slip in. You don't have to say anything, but good networkers should notice you and pivot themselves to welcome you into the conversation.
It may be even hard to start a conversation with a stranger, so here are some suggested conversation starters that are deeper than usual small talk.
- What brings you here?
- What's your experience with _____?
- What has been your favorite session thus far?
- What's your biggest takeaway from something you heard?
- How are you hoping to benefit from this event?
19. Be fully present
You may be tempted to work while you're at the conference, but this is a sure way to waste some of your investment to be there!
Let your coworkers know you'll be unavailable, or maybe even set an autoresponder for email inquiries and change your voicemail greeting.
Focusing any less than 100% at a conference wastes your time and that of the people you talk to.
20. Bring backup batteries
Don't be a slave to the power outlets! Bring spare batteries or backup batteries for your important devices (probably your smartphone or tablet). Anker makes some great and affordable USB charging devices. Remember to have the right charging cable with you!
21. Follow up
The event may have worn you out, inspired you, overwhelmed you, introduced you to wonderful people, or equipped you with more resources. This will all be a waste if you don't follow up. Following up could be with people or ideas.
- Schedule time to pursue the new idea or resource.
- Set reminders to follow up.
- Scan business cards into an easily searchable and taggable system (like Evernote).
- Make a template email you can send and slightly customize for each followup.
Event organizers love feedback! Follow up with them and give positive and constructive feedback for the overall event plus for every session you attended. Feedback usually drives future decisions.
Often, session feedback will also be shared with the presenters, which helps them to improve or know how well their content connected.
What are your best conference tips?
Please comment with your favorite tips for getting the most from podcasting conferences or other social-media events!
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I no longer offer one-on-one consulting outside of Podcasters' Society, but request a consultant here and I'll connect you with someone I trust to help you launch or improve your podcast.
This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship and may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.
My tip is if you can, book the next day off work. So for example I’m attending New Media Europe 2015 and I’ve booked the following Monday off after the weekend so that should anything spark something in me (which I’m expecting to) I’ve got time to act on it.
This applies mainly to those of us who have day jobs and podcasting etc is a part time hobby.
[…] also recommend you listen to “How to Get the Most from Podcasting and Social-Media Conferences” (episode 229) and “9 Tips for How to Grow Your Audience by Attending Social-Media […]