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There are conferences for almost every industry, and the average executive will end up attending several conferences each year. They might head to a SAP conference to learn about the latest products, then go to speak at a leadership conference, or head to SXSW or CES to meet and greet buyers and clients. Why are conferences so important? Well, for starters, they’re a great way to meet new people, reinforce old contacts, and find out what’s going on in your industry.
Making the Most of Conferences
Conferences are expensive – attending a SAP conference could set you back a couple of thousand Euros once conference tickets, flights and accommodation are factored in. This means that you need to make the most of the conferences you go to.
The first thing you need to do is pick the right conference – obviously, you’ll want to attend a conference that relates to your industry, but beyond that, do you want to go for networking, education, or just the chance to see what your competitors are doing. Most industries have conferences that run from keynotes and speeches through to networking dinners and a strong party culture. Do some research until you find one that meets your needs.
Surviving the Show
Once you’ve found the right conference, you’ll want to make sure that you book nice and early, and that you arrive fresh faced, alert, and ready to enjoy the show. If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll probably be travelling in economy and staying in a budget hotel.
Experiment with different dates, and consider arriving a day early so that you can get some sleep before the show. The extra expense of one more night in a hotel will be worth it to make sure you’re awake enough to actually remember what happens at the conference.
When you’re getting ready for the conference, find out what the dress code is. Most conferences are business casual, but if there are parties after the event they might have a different dress code. Pack for comfort, and take a couple of smart items that you can use to jazz up your attire if required.
Make sure you pack a lot of business cards. Take twice as many as you think you’ll need – you will be glad you did. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having to admit you’re out of cards – it makes you look unprofessional and poorly prepared.
If you’re travelling within your own country, take a wireless dongle with you. If you’re abroad, and expect to be there a while, buy a SIM card with data on it. Most conferences provide WiFi on site, but it’s often unstable and slow. Even hotel WiFi can be unreliable, so having a backup plan is useful for those emergency emails.
It pays to plan ahead when it comes to food. Try to bring a bottle of water with you, and sling some protein bars in your bag as well for those moments when hunger hits. Some conferences provide food for guests for free, but at others food is expensive and poor quality. If you bring your own snacks, you won’t be at the mercy of the over-priced hot dog stand.