Football fans have the Super Bowl. College basketball fans have March Madness. Advertising agencies have the 4A’s conference. Once a year, agencies both large and small, come together for the American Association of Advertising Agencies national conference, and lucky for us this year’s conference will be held in sunny Los Angeles. Media Works is ecstatic to be going, but more importantly we’re prepared.
As a young professional starting my career, I recently attended my first industry conference. I’ll admit it was a little overwhelming. There were industry leaders there from all across the country, many of who were like online celebrities in the social media world. When all was said and done I learned valuable lessons that have prepared us for the big show next week.
1) Preparation Is Key.
Remember when you were a kid and your mother would stop you at the door and ask “Do you have everything?” You’d shrug and continue on your way and then when you got to school you’d remember that you left your inhaler on the kitchen table? Well folks, that lesson still applies today. Before you travel to any event make sure you prepare a quick packing list. Be sure to include necessary items like phone chargers, business cards, and your special Hulk Hogan plush pillow. As silly as it sounds, we wouldn’t want a repeat of your 5th grade sleepover disaster.
Aside from bringing your vital necessities, you should also remember to prepare for your trip socially. To prime ourselves for the trip out West we’ve made a point to follow and connect with many speakers BEFORE the event. This is done to help with research as well as giving us something to talk about when we eventually meet. Just make sure your Twitter and Facebook are in shape to be viewed by your cohorts. You wouldn’t want the president of a big television network to see your Spring Break pictures would you?
2) Don’t Network Like A Mad Man
Of course we’ve all heard the mantra before, network network network. The question is, how do you know if you’re doing it right? Social media has made it easier to connect and remain “Linked” to individuals but the skills for face-to-face networking opportunities, like those that are available to you at a conference, may take some practice.
Luke Harlan published an insightful guide called “Ultimate Networking Strategies” in which he outlined key strategies for making the most out of your opportunity. The idea is that you want to go in to an event with a clear objective, as well as a strategy to get it done. One of his best points was that you should be looking for Links, NOT prospects. This means going in and finding that one person who can connect you to a greater audience. No sense in wasting your time chatting with the intern about your global sales initiatives, unless of course his dad is the president of a big television network.
So before you leave for that trip, be sure to write down your goals, the key links who will be there, and a couple of questions to ask them when you meet. Trust me, in the end your preparation will show your enthusiasm and increase the chance of reconnecting after the event.
3) Utilize The Tools You Have
Having a smartphone these days can often be the single most effective tool when visiting a conference. Forgot your business cards? Use the app Bump to exchange contact information. Don’t know where to grab dinner? Download Yelp or Aloqa to locate interesting restaurants or events close to your hotel. Need a way to remember the names of the people you meet? Try out #hashable, the new app for keeping track of the social profiles of other attendees.
In the end, the idea is that you want to pre plan as much of your trip as possible. There’s nothing like being stuck on a flight with a screaming two-year-old, struggling to find a cab at the airport, realizing your hotel bed sheets are still dirty, just to remember you forgot your business cards for the next morning. Walking into that room with all of your materials and your list of potential connections, you’ll have the needed confidence to get you through your very first conference.