How to get the most value from your next Trade Show or Conference

Published on October 20, 2016

Going to an industry conference is like trying to fly through a hurricane in a cheap, one-prop Cessna airplane.

You walk in, and WHAM you're hit with:

  • Loud, high-energy venues
  • Tons of people to connect with
  • speakers slinging so much knowledge you need a lifejacket just to stay afloat and breathe

Think about the conferences you go to - GIE Expo, ARCSI Cleaning Convention, or the Service Autopilot Conference. When most owners get back to the office, they FORGET more than half the info and contacts they worked so hard to gather.

Don’t let your next industry event go to waste. Here are a few tips to get you the most out of your next conference:

#1 Change the way you think about Networking

Networking is valuable to you and your company. It’s not always easy (especially for introverts), but it will:

  • Make you a better leader
  • Give you access to helpful people
  • Increase your awareness about your market and industry

For many business owners, this is the main reason they go to industry events like the Service Autopilot Conference.

Don’t let networking scare you. Networking is an important boost to your career as a business owner. The people you meet will understand your struggles. They can help you overcome any problem in your business.

#2 Pre-introduce yourself to other attendees

It’s 2016. You are probably already connected to other attendees through the internet.

So make it known: tell people in your facebook groups, on your forum, etc. that you are going to the next industry conference. Invite them to hang out with you.

Heck, if you have their emails, send them a message. This is a great way to “pregame” some people who might otherwise never talk to you.

#3 Make a time-based Strategy with your MAIN Goals in mind.

Some scientists say* that conferences run on a weird sort of “super speed” parallel to normal time. Unless you are a time traveler, you will DEFINITELY miss out on some things.

The key is to be strategic with your time.

Plan ahead. Figure out which talks will fix the main problems in your business. Make sure everything you do (events, talks, networking) achieves at least one goal.

*These scientists may or may not be totally made up.

#4 Give yourself time to BREATHE

Conferences are exhausting for everyone. Introverts, extroverts, even those people that seem to be powered by an unending stream of nuclear energy.

That’s one of the reasons why we hold our at an outstanding hotel - so you can go up to your room anytime you need a break, a nap, or just a breather from all those talkative people.

Don't have a nearby hotel? Find a quiet corner or outdoor space where you can hear the wind rustling in the leaves. It really helps.

Think about your phone’s battery. When the charge is low, your phone is going to run slower, and even the screen gets dimmer. Recharge time is critical not to your success at any conference.

#5 Use them Ears-ies

You got two of them. Only one mouth. Make sure you ACTIVELY listen to people. Don’t sit there, thinking only of what you’re going to say next instead of actually listening to your new contact.

When in a group, ask people to introduce themselves. This will get the non-talkers talking, and the over-talkers to SHUSH. Even if just for a minute.

#6 Use this list of useful ice breakers:

After “Where ya from?” and “What do you do?” a lot of us get stuck.

These should help you avoid any awkward pauses:

  • What projects are you working on in your business right now?
  • What improvements did you make this year?
  • Which session are you most excited about today?
  • What’s the biggest struggle in your business right now?
  • What do you like most about Service Autopilot? (Okay, maybe not the best ice breaker.)
  • What are you most proud of about your company?

#7 Lend a Helping Hand

You might not realize this but... you could be someone else’s mentor. That’s a big deal.

If you hear someone has a problem, and you have a solution, DO NOT BE AFRAID to extend your help. Make someone’s day - and maybe even make a very grateful friend for life.

You never know when that friend might return the favor.

#8 Quick Guide on how to Take REALLY GOOD Notes

  1. Use one document per talk. It can be multiple pages, but make sure you know where your document stops.
  2. Write the Speaker - Topic - Time at the top.
  3. Leave 3 spaces below the topic. You will put the 3 key takeaways from the talk at the end. Use this when going back through your notes to get a memory boost on what each talk was about.
  4. Write! Studies show that, even if you never look back through your notes, the act of taking notes PERIOD will increase the amount of information you retain.

#9 Send your employees out to different talks

Divide and conquer, friends.

Cover more ground with your team by sending them to separate talks. The only exception is if you know the talk will benefit your entire team.

#10 - Designate at follow-up day

When you get back to the office, after the conference buzz has worn off, it can be hard to “do all the things you promised you would do."

Don’t lose your momentum! Schedule a day to sit down with your managing team to go over what you learned.

This is probably the single most helpful tip on this list. In my team, we do this whenever one of us attends a conference and it really, seriously helps. I can’t recommend this one enough.  

#11 Last, not least: Enjoy Yourself!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, conferences can be all kinds of fun.

Don’t be afraid to unwind, relax, laugh, and try new things. This is your chance to really have a good time.

Looking for your next industry event? The 2017 Service Autopilot Conference is just around the corner - November 9th through the 11th.

Become a better leader, and get connected with your industry!

Register here:

Lisa Marino

Lisa Marino is the Sr. Marketing Director for Service Autopilot. She uses her 17+ years in direct marketing, sales, and product development to push entrepreneurs beyond their limits. She's passionate about helping others grow their businesses through time-tested marketing techniques. When not writing, you can find her belting out a mean Stevie Nicks at a local karaoke night.


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