Chemistry is the goal, and preparedness will get you there. Conferences are an amazing way to learn about your industry, nurture relationships, meet with people you’ve only communicated with online and, perhaps, become business partners or collaborators in new ventures. There are many articles on how to prepare to meet the right people, research your keynote speakers and make sure your social game is on point, but I want your personal approach to be flawless.
I’ve been doing this for more than 15 years, in multiple industries and, trust me, business preparation is important, but personal preparation decreases stress and makes an impact. If you’re new to the business conference world, events can feel overwhelming, awkward and downright nail biting. Don’t worry. Together, we will make sure you are conference ready, mentally and physically, and ensure that you can keep up, ‘til the break of dawn.
There are four areas you should have a clear understanding of to ensure your conference experience is maximized, productive and beneficial—travel preparation, communication readiness, engagement etiquette and technology savviness.
■ Conference travel preparation not only applies to your business strategy but also includes engaging with people and personal mindfulness. Pre-planning is for your own peace of mind and ensures you can work hard enough to also play hard. Therefore, put as much time into planning your networking opportunities as you would your educational schedule. When outlining targeted corporate or minority business alignment partners to engage, do some discovery into their personal interests.
Relaxation drives ideation, which fuels creativity. Ponder this. If you ignore mindfulness, can you drive passion or growth with your team? Plan for a few hours or more to do a little sightseeing or visit a highly recommended tourist spot. You don’t want to be like me and look back over five years and 40 travel spots and unable to share one detail or recommend one restaurant or hot spot.
Considering the landscape of senior leadership is mostly dominated by males, women of color and business owners should be where the leaders are. Here are some options of where you should be: the gym during the early hours, the host hotel lounge after 10 p.m., the cigar bar and the golf course.
Be prepared by bringing these items for quick changes, long night recoveries and early morning sessions: baby or cosmetic wipes for stain and make-up removal, fabric softener sheets to remove the cigar smell from hair, sneakers and shorts if you visit the gym for a slow stroll on the elliptical.
In your bag, add candles, bath salts, moisturizing body cream, mouthwash, Listerine mouth strips or breath mints to ensure coffee or cigar breath doesn’t make people back away from you.
■ Communication is the gateway to inside knowledge—showcasing your personal brand and getting people to drop their guard. Focus on looking forward to the conference, being accessible and projecting a positive vibe. Your frame of mind and heart can set you up to have an amazing experience and be an awesome person to meet.
In other words, get your mind right and attitude in check. Reading positive and motivational content or downloading inspirational podcasts or music will drive positive thoughts. Utilize these tools to visualize success before you travel, before matchmaking sessions and, most importantly, before waiting in the registration or Starbucks line.
■ Engagement etiquette can be tricky, especially if reading people is a new skill you are working on. Whether you realize it or not, your vibe and interaction is important. Think of your attitude as a ball of energy riding on a boomerang—what you toss out will almost always come back. Also consider, while you may be enthusiastic, timing is important. You may be thinking, “Finally, I see the number one contact I must meet” or “Wow, I’d love a selfie,” but now it’s time for dinner or right after a yoga session. Ask yourself, “Would I want to listen to a pitch when I’ve taken hundreds of meetings and waited all day for a meal?” or “Would I want anyone to put me on social media sweaty or with a drink in my hand?”
No opportunity is a missed opportunity, unless you misread the moment. In that case, while you may really want to interact, you don’t want to come across like an aggressively annoying sales person, nor do you want your electronic devices to be a barrier for future connections. So exercise patience and wait for the right moment to engage potential professional partners.
■ Your technology is your life. Do not get caught with dead devices and do not show up to the conference without validating that your social media platform links are in working order. The most inconvenient situation is when you finally hear a tweetable moment or score a photo op but you can’t capture the moment. Nor is the moment you want remembered about your business, the “broken link” instance. Prepare your hardware and social platforms. Invest in a backup battery pack or schedule time to recharge, especially if the day is filled with topics of conversation covered by your client, potential growth opportunities or a keynote by your idol. Test your website and links sent in an email to avoid a missed opportunity to connect.
Preparing for a conference can be daunting. However, when I prepare, I am less pressured, friendlier and ready to tackle the extremely long hours and engagements until the break of dawn. Eliminate the challenges by implementing some of these mental and life skills to help you get through the week, like a boss.