I’ve just returned from my first big industry event. It was exciting and new and a great experience of actually going out there as someone who works in the field, representing a company. I was able to have a conversation about the products and strategies that were being presented with the background of having worked on real-world projects, helping several clients.
But I was also coming in with fresh eyes and that allowed me to evaluate the event from a bit of a blank slate.
Here are some of my take-aways from the day:
- Business cards are a must – AdTech was a two-day event. Two days full of seminars, exhibitor stalls, keynotes, meetings…resulting in crowds and crowds of people coming in through the door. Whoever you talk to, I guarantee they won’t remember your name the next day as there’s simply too many new faces. Having a quick way to hand over your contact information was essential.
- Interesting business cards are better – I can’t even count anymore how many times I’ve had a conversation that was simply sparked by my colourful Moo Mini cards. They look different. They feel different. They’re definitely not boring and people will remember you better simply because you gave them something memorable. Go get yours now.
- Not all seminars were made equal – I was really excited about the seminar part of the day and had decided beforehand which sessions seemed really interesting and which I would go to. That plan didn’t work quite so well simply because the quality of the seminars was varied and I often found myself feeling bored after five minutes of listening to an uninteresting pitch on an idea that seemed brilliant. I learned to walk away.
- But for the good ones, come early – If there’s something you really want to see, be prepared to show up 10 or 15 minutes early as places will go fast. Listening from behind the seminar area is not pleasant and often virtually impossible with all the noise around.
- Travel light – I spent the whole day walking around with my own bag, a coat and a promotional bag full of paper and hidden gems. The exhibition hall was packed and it certainly would have been easier walking around had I planned to take as little as possible in advance. You can get pen and paper at certain seminars (e.g. Google’s AdWords Factory Tour provided a goodie bag and I ended up just using this convenient stationary rather than fishing out my own shiny Moleskine).
- It will all be one long pitch – Exhibitors are in sales – they will be trying to pitch you the product or service, get your business card (or scan your barcode – more on that in another post) and sign you up for life. Well, maybe not the last bit. But it will pretty much be a pitch and sales event so brace yourself in advance.
- So come prepared with a plan – Why are you there? Is there anyone specific you want to talk to? Are there seminars that look interesting? Is there a product you want to check out? Make a plan so you don’t end up aimlessly wandering around. The hall is big and you will get distracted.
- Network in advance – Industry events are a great way to network with people in your field. But these big events are too busy and overcrowded and I found myself not actually having that many nice relaxed conversations getting to know industry colleagues. It would have made a huge difference to seek out others that are going well in advance, connect with them on Twitter and maybe have a few online chats. That way, we could have arranged to meet up on the day. Well, I’ll learn my lesson for next time.
Do you have any tips for the next event? What do you usually do to get the most of industry conferences and networking opportunities like this?