Attending Conferences 101: Setting Yourself Up for Success

By: Eden Hensley; Photos by Brooke Dennis for Alt Summit

Preparation for a conference can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. As the days get closer, there’s a buzz in the air. You’ve got your ticket. You’ve got your hotel accommodations. You’ve found your roommates. You’ve booked your travel. And you’ve ordered your business cards. Here are three things you can do while you count down the days until the event.

Set clear goals for yourself.

Think about why you are attending. Make a list of everything you hope to accomplish, prioritize your list, and then focus on the top two to three goals. Whatever your goal, learning new skills, being inspired, connecting with brands, etc., you can accomplish it at Alt Summit. If you try to do everything, you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed, Two and a half days seems like a long time, but once you’ve landed at The Grand America, you’ll find time flies by.

Find the sessions that map to your goals.

Take a look at the schedule for the conference. If there are brands sponsoring the event that you want to connect with, look for any sessions they’re involved with. This will give you insight into what they care about. This will also give you a time and place where you can connect with a brand if you weren’t able to get into their dinner or missed them in the lounge.

If you’re new to blogging or social media, find sessions that will help you grow and get to know the speakers. For example, if you want to grow your community on Instagram and potentially monetize that platform, consider one of the breakout sessions or roundtables. Then start reading the speakers’ blog. Follow them on social media. By understanding where the speakers are coming from, you’ll be prepared to ask questions and you may find a potential collaboration partner or mentor.

Connect with other attendees.

It is rare that you’ll meet every attendee at a conference. Depending on your networking style, you may interact with between one to ten percent of the total participants.

If there is someone you really want to meet, whether that is a sponsor, speaker, or other attendee, start following them and interacting with them on social media before you arrive, and make plans to meet in Salt Lake City. I’ve found if I don’t schedule a breakfast or a lunch with someone, our paths might not cross and I’ll miss the opportunity to catch up in person. The private Facebook group we’ve set up is a great way to interact.

When reaching out to other participants, be respectful of their time. Realize their goals may be different than yours, so do your homework first—find out what they’re excited about (social media is a great way to do this!). And don’t be afraid to say hi. If you see someone you’ve been dying to meet don’t be shy. If they’re busy or in the middle of something, they’ll let you know, but you’ll never know unless you ask.

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