10 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Tech Conferences in 2012

Posted by · January 27, 2012 12:53 pm

With the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) over, Davos (which, according to Kate Imbach is where Silicon Valley insiders mix and mingle) and MacWorld nearly in the rear view mirror, and AllThingsD’s Dive Into Media conference right around the corner, the 2012 tech conference schedule is well underway.  I attended CES a few weeks ago and if there’s one thing I learned from my experience in Las Vegas it’s that you get out of a tech conference what you put into it.   

Below are my top ten recommendations for getting the most out of tech conferences (or any conference for that matter) in 2012.

  1. Have a plan– This is especially important at large conferences where there are multiple tracks, sessions or events that you can attend at the same time.  Every conference has a website and every website has a conference schedule.  (If they don’t, there is usually someone listed on the site who you can contact to obtain a schedule prior to the event.) Plan to attend the sessions that will either be the most informative or put you in touch with key people you want to meet.
  2. Set goals– Once you’ve looked at the schedule and have a general idea of the sessions and the type of people who will be attending the events, set goals for what you want to accomplish by the end fo the conference.  If you’re a blogger, this might mean landing a certain interview or writing a certain number of posts.  For startup founders, a good goal might be to set up meetings with potential investors.  Think about goals that will benefit your career development or your company the most and then work hard to accomplish them.
  3. Talk to a veteran– Let’s be honest, the tech world is a bit of a microcosm and chances are you know someone (or know someone who knows someone) who has attended the tech conference you’ll be attending for the first time.  Talk to the conference veteran and get his/her insider tips for how to get the most out of your time at the event.
  4. Prepare for anything– If there’s one thing I learned from my time at CES, it’s that you need to be prepared for everything from extreme hunger to dehydration to blisters to WiFi failures to technology glitches.  Bring two of everything and bring multiple devices for note taking and —even if it means you need to check some luggage.  After all, you can probably expense it later.
  5. Avoid day one discouragement– Your first day at a new conference can be particularly overwhelming—especially if you’re there alone.  But don’t get discouraged: you’ll start to hit a stride as the week goes on.  Take some time at the end of day one to evaluate what you did well and what you could have done differently.  Remind yourself of your goals (and re-evaluate if necessary) and remember that tomorrow is another day.
  6. Be fearless– I know that introducing yourself to that tech celeb you’ve been admiring from afar for years is intimidating. (Ok, it’s terrifying.) And I realize that every time you ask a VC to hear your pitch you face the possibility of rejection.  But the sooner you get over that fear, the more you’re setting yourself up for success in life, not just at a conference.  This may be the only time you’ll find yourself in contact with some of these people, so try to make a connection when you can.
  7. Do one fun thing– Conferences are usually held in big cities where there are a lot of things to do.  Find one thing that you really want to see or do in that city and carve out some time to do it.  I personally like to plan my fun time for the end of the week, as it gives me something to look forward to while I’m working hard.
  8. Exchange information– Conference attendees usually have business cards at the ready (you should too), but if someone you meet does not have their contact information on hand, ask them for their email (and be sure to actually write it down).  Conferences are the ultimate networking event and it’s important to take full advantage of the opportunities you have to connect with people face-to-face.
  9. Save receipts in a designated place– This one is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s especially important if you plan to expense your conference travels.  I suggest packing an envelope, keeping it in your suitcase and putting all conference-related receipts in that envelope at the end of each day.
  10. Follow up– Whether you think you’ll benefit from some of the connections you made at the conference or not, it’s important to follow up with every person you meet.  I suggest sending them an email within 24 hours of meeting someone to tell them how nice it was to make their acquaintance and then follow up with them again the week after the conference to discuss any business-related matters you might have talked about at the conference.

This list is by no means comprehensive and I’d be interested to hear your tips for getting the most out of conferences.  I’d also like to know which tech conference(s) you’ll be attending in 2012. Let me know in the comments section below!