By Suneera Madhani, CEO/Founder of Fattmerchant
It's conference season again, and if you're like me, you're dreading the small talk, long flights and crowded exhibit halls. Remember, you are not alone. And just like you, everyone wants to get in, get to business and try to enjoy a nice dinner -- all in two or three days.
As a business owner, your time is precious. Making the most of your time away from the office is crucial for success. Here is my fool-proof guide to tackling conferences like a pro. These tips have never failed me. I hope you find a few useful as well.
Know Your Big Goals and Stick to Them
Before even getting on that plane, know exactly why you are there and what your one or two biggest goals are. Is it meeting with a vendor you have been working with for a while? Or maybe finding that one new channel partner that will catapult your growth strategy? Know what you want and why, so you can avoid wasting too much time in meetings that don't hold value for you or your company. Stay focused and avoid any distractions.
Scheduling, like all other things, should have a process. Here's my rule: If it's not on your calendar, it doesn't exist. Most conferences will have a list of attendees as well as a list of exhibitors, so plan ahead and get your meetings scheduled before you arrive. Don't get lost among the booths and people who are trying to sell you something you're not there for. Leaving your schedule open prior to the event is a disaster waiting to happen. Know who you're talking with and when to keep your focus and make the most of your time.
Avoid the Pushy Sales People
You know the exact people I'm talking about. Yes, those people. The ones who are trying to make small talk at the bathroom or the bar, the "networkers." Avoid getting sucked into long conversations, try to keep small talk to a minimum and never feel bad about politely excusing yourself from a conversation. Save your time for scheduled meetings, more productive conversations and a scheduled purposeful walk around the exhibition floor.
Strategically Walk the Exhibit Floor
When attending conferences, I never hit the exhibit floor without a plan. If I find myself there without one, I'll throw my headphones on. This way I can schedule some time to find new vendors/technology for the company but be able to do it without being approached by every booth. Their job is to get you interested in their product, but if that's not what you're there for, keep moving! I'm not saying to ignore everyone and everything. Instead, understand what's best for you and your business and approach the booths that will have the biggest impact.
Try to Have Fun
Try scheduling some awesome dinners and explore the city just enough that you can say you've been there. I know time can be tight, but I always try to fit in a great restaurant. After all, you're in a different city. So you might as well try to go to a local favorite outside of the hotel and enjoy your time, however much you might have.
At the end of the day, you know what's best for your business. As long as you show up prepared, execute on your plan and walk away from the conference with follow-ups on the calendar, you can count your time away from the office as a success. Don't forget to have a little fun along the way and bring back some great learnings to your team. If it works for me, I'm confident it'll work for you too! What are your favorite conference tips?
Tell me about them in the comments!
Suneera Madhani is CEO/Founder of Fattmerchant, bringing simple yet powerful payment technology to all business types.