Conferences can be exciting, incredibly useful, motivating, informative, and beneficial, but they can also be stressful, taxing, and overwhelming if it’s your first rodeo. Jason Della Rocca, co-founder of Execution Labs, funding advisor, cluster expert, and game industry veteran gives us an inside look on getting the most out of your conference experience.
What to do before attending a conference
First thing you need to consider are your goals: why are you attending this conference? What do you hope to accomplish? Perhaps you’re looking to network and make contacts. Maybe you’re there to promote an upcoming project. Or maybe you’re there to learn. Regardless of your objective, you should always spell out your goals prior to attending the conference.
Make your schedule beforehand
Most conferences have an agenda or schedule sent out beforehand; make sure you review it and take note of any talks, workshops, or events you need to attend. Be sure to register or RSVP for anything that requires you to do so.
Once those are in place, book any meetings around that. Be sure to avoid early mornings and late nights, as some people may be experiencing jet lag from travel.
What to bring to a conference
Stock up on business cards and any promotional material you intend to hand out before leaving for the conference – you don’t want to be running around to print shops while you’re there.
Make sure you’ve got a notepad and pen for any quick notes or information you need to jot down on the fly. A battery pack or two for your phone is also an essential, as you’ll likely be on your feet and out and about most of the time.
Traveling for a conference
If you’re not from there, you should also consider getting a roaming or data package for your phone; conferences don’t often have the most reliable WiFi and it’ll help you avoid any unexpected charges to your phone bill. On that same vein – be sure to load local maps on your phone so you don’t get lost.
Be sure to reach out to any pertinent contacts you’d expect to meet at the conference beforehand to let them know you’ll be there. Add anyone you may have to meet up with as a contact on your phone – the last thing you want to do when trying to get a hold of someone is digging through your inbox for a phone numbers at the bottom of an email.
What to do when you’re at the conference
Use your time well
You’re now at the conference now and you’re finding it overwhelming – you’ve got a jam-packed schedule and are running from meeting to meeting. Remember to pace yourself and take some rests throughout the day to catch a breath. This is also a great time to take notes and recap something you need to revisit later. Sit at the back of room for lectures in the event that you want or need to cut out early.
Try to eat well, always carry a water bottle and a few snacks to fuel yourself throughout the day. Other items at keep at hand: mints for fresh-mouthed networking and sanitizer to kill all those handshaking germs on the spot.
You’ll be on your feet pretty much all day and night so think function before fashion. Wear a pair of shoes you know are comfortable and that are already broken in.
What to do after attending a conference
Well that was tiring! Aren’t you exhausted?! Time to take a day or two and rest up – conferences are long, and particularly taxing on the mind and body. Sleep it off before hopping back into work.
Did you get some rest? Great.
Now it’s time to debrief. Whether your conference experience was for you alone or a team effort, it’s important to run through all the learnings, meetings, and contacts you’ve made. Assess how the conference went – was it a success? Was it a flop? Would you go again next year? Make sure you come out of it with a clear learning.
Finally, send out those follow-up emails and add those new contacts on LinkedIn – tie up those loose ends!