Industry shows are a great way, in a relatively short period of time, to hear multiple speakers present on a broad range of topics, and often to find other vendors or suppliers to support your business too. The cost for the variety and amount of information presented usually make industry shows worthwhile, and most shows include a great social component to add to the fun and value. I have attended and been a speaker at multiple shows including The Special Event (TSE), Wedding MBA, WeddingWire World, and the ABC National Conference (and soon to be at the Alt Summit), and I wanted to give you some quick tips and hints on how to get the most from an industry show or conference.
Have reasonable expectations. By that I mean, don’t expect every session to be incredible and/or exactly what you were thinking it would be. Shows need a lot of speakers and some of them are just going to be better, or more on target, than others. If you are unsure about which sessions to attend, talk with others who have seen a particular speaker and get opinions on their quality and their content.
Know your plans going into the show. Based on your goals for the year and the corresponding plans you are implementing to achieve those goals, you should have a good idea of what business topic areas are the most important to seek out. You should also have an idea of what specific information you are looking for within each business topic, which should help you narrow down which are the best sessions to attend.
Try to get two or three actionable takeaways from each session and make detailed notes of those items. Also, see if the presenter is offering any kind of after-show follow-up (slides, other worksheets, etc.). If they are, make sure you are on the list to receive them, which usually means handing them one of your business cards.
Find friends and colleagues to team up with. You will get more out of the show if you have people you can count on in the same session so that you can compare notes and discuss takeaways or next action steps after the session. And, it is also extremely helpful to have friends who are attending other sessions so that you can share notes and get even more out of the show.
Finally, although you will have lots of ideas after a show, you most likely won’t have the time or resources to implement everything. Pick 3 of the most immediate and important items and focus on those items first. As you get them going, or completed, you can then start working on others as you have the time.