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I absolutely LOVE learning, so going to industry conferences has become one of the best ways for me to stay on top of all the changes and new strategies in social media. It’s also a great break from the office (I always manage to turn it into a little vacation) and I’ve made some amazing friendships along the way with co-attendees and industry influencers, including Sue B. Zimmerman, who became my business coach and friend.

This week I’m going to be heading out to Agents of Change and thought I’d share a few tips on how I prep for a conference to get the maximum value out of every opportunity that’s offered. These are all steps you can take before your next conference, regardless of its size or location.

1. Pay Attention to the Details

No one likes to show up un-prepared, so make sure you are combing through the conference website. Which speakers you want to hear are only part of the preparation. You also need to see what types of additional activities are taking place before, during and after the conference so you can make your travel plans and pack appropriately. Don’t miss that opening night event because you didn’t pack the right attire, or miss a group walk because you left your gym shoes and workout clothes at home. Many of these conferences will have pre- or post-event workshops, influencers may have meet-ups…these are all details you need to identify in advance.

2. Hashtags and Groups

Most conferences will have a hashtag that they will use to promote the event and will encourage all of their speakers and attendees to use. These hashtags are going to be key to connecting with others so make sure to find out what it is.

Setting up private Facebook or LinkedIn groups for conference attendees is very common and you need to take the time to find and join those as soon as you get registered.

3. Connect with all of the Speakers

You have to do your homework if you want to get the best results out of any conference. Start by identifying every speaker and following him or her on all your favorite social media platforms. And then you need to spend plenty of time engaging with them. Let them know you are looking forward to learning from them. Ask questions. Let them know what challenges you are hoping they will be able to help you solve.

Share their content and be sure to leave comments and likes. Trust me, your engagement is very appreciated by even the biggest of influencers and will pay off when you get the chance to meet them in person. And don’t let it end when the conference is over. These relationships can be very helpful to both of you… so stay engaged!

You have to do your homework if you want to get the best results out of any conference. Click To Tweet

4. Network with Other Attendees

Remember that Facebook group I mentioned that you should join? Well joining isn’t really enough. You need to get in there and engage with others daily. Set an alarm, write it in your calendar, do whatever you need to do to remember. It is really important that you get involved in the conversations that are taking place. This is your opportunity to make a few new friends and get a sense of the conference culture before you even get there.

5. Leverage that Hashtag

Every few days you should go into Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram and search the conference hashtag. This is another excellent way to connect with attendees, sponsors and speakers, to learn more about the event and ultimately to grow your network and your followers. The first time I went out to Social Media Marketing World, my Twitter account alone grew by 300 new followers just by using that strategy. And I was connecting with like-minded people that also had great content to share and that shared my passion for social media. A win-win!

The 7-Step Social Media Strategy Guide

6. Book Meetings with Complete Strangers

OK, so by the time you try to set up a meeting you will likely have connected on a social platform or maybe in the Facebook group and will know a little something about this person you approach. Most of the time people head out to these conferences alone, so an invitation to have coffee, lunch, a drink, take a walk or attend one of the events or sessions together is often a very welcome invitation.

Put some thought into the types of people that you’d like to talk with. Maybe it’s someone in a similar business that you’d like to share ideas with. Or maybe it’s someone you think you could partner with on a project. It can even be a representative from one of the sponsors that you’d like to learn more about. Again, this is an excellent way to build new relationships and to make your conference experience that much more productive and enjoyable!

7. Make a List of Your Conference Goals

Conferences take up a lot of our time and money, so you want to make the most of each one of them. I always make a list of the top things I want to get out of that specific conference. It may be new strategies, new skills, identifying new resources or even meeting a particular influencer or expert. Whatever you put on your list, you have to hold yourself accountable. So review the list each morning and each night and make sure you are setting up your schedule and your tasks for the day to reach those goals.

8. Set a Schedule

Many conferences will have multiple speakers or workshops happening simultaneously, so make sure you are setting your schedule in line with the goals that you have set for the conference. Make yourself a list of which sessions you want to attend so that you’re getting the knowledge you came for. Going in without a strategy will leave your mind in chaos. And most of the time, your brain is already on overload with all the new information you’re taking in.

Going in without a strategy will leave your mind in chaos.Click To Tweet

9. Engage, Engage, Engage

Let me share a little story with you about the value of engagement prior to a conference. Before my first big social media conference, I decided to throw a little purple into my hair. I would love to say I had some master plan, but I didn’t, I was just being me! But with all the engagement I was doing before the conference, when I got there, people were able to easily recognize me and I become much more approachable.

The engagement shouldn’t stop when you get to or leave the conference. Be sure to follow up with people that you met.  Provide feedback to the event organizers and speakers. Share successes that you’ve had based on things you learned or resources you’ve started using.

I can honestly tell you that some of the people I have met at conferences have become more like family. They are the people I reach out to when I am stuck, when I’m frustrated, when I need someone to be accountable to or someone to room with at the next conference.

I can’t wait for Agents of Change because it’s an opportunity to re-connect with those amazing people, and also to build new relationships that will hopefully become just as valuable to my business and just as meaningful on a personal level.

I hope these tips will be helpful to you as you prepare for your next conference. If you have a social media or business conference on your schedule, let me know what it is… I just might want to check it out too!

I love to hear from my followers, so leave me a comment below to share your tips, strategy or anything that will add value to this blog. And as always, you can reach us via our contact page, via email, or find us on any social media platform @thinkbiggolocal if you want to connect!

Bobbi Baehne

Bobbi Baehne

President, Think Big Go Local, Inc.

My mission at Think Big Go Local is to create a “buzz” around our client’s businesses online and in social media platforms so their message reaches their desired audience.  We know that relationships are built and maintained online each and every day and work to make sure our clients are building credibility, authority and attracting new followers and clients .  We don’t work in a cookie cutter environment, each of our clients is unique and their accounts are fully managed using their voice, talking to their specific audience and sharing value that keeps them coming back.

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