Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Making the Most Out of Conferences

If navigated correctly, you could meet potential colleagues, make valuable contacts and, yes, even land some new clients!

As we prepare to head to sunny Palm Springs, Calif., for the 2013 WCAA Conference, we thought it only appropriate to address the networking potential of conferences. If navigated correctly, you could meet potential colleagues, make valuable contacts and, yes, even land some new clients! We have some tips to make the most out of conferences:

1. Prepare: You could lose time at a conference if you don’t come prepared. If at all possible, research who else will be in attendance. Finding the names and job titles of attendees is great, but just knowing the companies that are sending representatives is also valuable. Get familiar with the list and prioritize your networking goals. If there’s someone on that list that would be a great contact to have or someone whose company could be in need of your business’ services, then put them at the top of your list. Keep this list handy for when you arrive, and you’ll have a general plan of action for the conference.

2. Organize: So you have a list of the people you’d like to meet at the conference, but such a list could be as few as a handful of people or to as long as hundreds of names, depending on the size of the attendance. You’ll already be busy with various conference seminars, so make the most of your networking time. Sometimes conferences allot a certain amount of time for mingling with other attendees, especially those with vendor booths and tradeshow floors — this is a great place to start. Then, try to make small meetings with those at the top of your list. Setting up a lunch or a meeting for coffee or drinks provides a good social construct that makes the task of networking feel more natural. Plus, having smaller meals or limiting yourself to beverages allows you to make a polite exit and maximize your time.

3. Learn: While networking is usually noted as the primary function of conferences, the content offered at such events is also important. Make sure you’re not missing out on the great agenda just to make as many contacts as fast as you can. Firstly, if you’re acting rushed, others will notice and feel disinclined to do business with you. Secondly, you’ll miss out on all of the valuable information provided in the various seminars. If you catch the right seminar, you might learn something that will help build up your business just as well as networking does.